While generally, I don’t go for religious films, I have to admit that Risen gave me a strong appreciation for when the drama and the bible, is done right. This is a low key film with a strong, authentic feel. It’s a no-nonsense approach to the subject, without too much sentimentality.
We start at the end of most movies about the crucifixion of Jesus. In this case, he’s has already been crucified and the movie is actually about a Roman named tribune Clavius (Joseph Fienne), who was tasked by the Pontius Pilot (Peter Firth) with handling Jesus’ burial and the subsequent investigation when Jesus goes missing. In the first half, its free of any overt piety, instead focusing on Clavius’ skepticism and belief that the explanation for the disappearance can be found in the physical world rather than the spiritual one.
Then, as he discovers the truth, this movie takes an inspirational turn that can be enjoyed even by the secular. It’s a movie about the growth of Clavius from gruff skeptic into believer. It’s not shoved down your throat or preachy, like many religious movies can get. Instead it unfolds in a way that is organic and believable.
I think the choice to focus on after the crucifixion was a great one, as this area is so rarely covered when we deal with bible based tales. In this case, it worked out extremely well and manages to be a religious film with the intelligence to go mainstream.
Fienne was particularly good in his jaded role, and his simple deadpan delivery really plays like he’s a man who’s lost all hope in life. Despite that, he still manages to be likable.
The key here is that the makers exercised restraint. They went with show over tell, giving us a rich story, complete with an excellent cast, who trusted the audience enough to know they’d be able to get the gist without having it spelled out for them. So many movies with a religious slant underestimate the intelligence of the viewer and this is definitely not one of them.
The scenery and makeup were also believable, blending into the movie rather than standing out. It’s a movie that manages to be both gritty and visually appealing at the same time. It’s a more sedate scene in order to match a more sedate tale.
Just saying, not your kids Veggie Tales.
All in all, it’s a well done effort that’s well rounded in both cast, story and setting. While it does cover faith more than some might like, it’s something I expected in this particular film. That’s because it’s possible to get its message without feeling like you have to sign on for the whole Jesus experience.
All in all, worth the watch. This oblique, nearly clinical look at the crucifixion of Jesus, followed with a slight faith based overlay, creates the best when it comes to religious films. While not for everyone, I can say I appreciate that it’s an excellent effort. While not exactly for kids, it’s still a good one for older teens and parents alike.
WE GAVE IT: 3.5 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!