Last night my wife and I saw the film Risen. As is her custom, Beth posted to Facebook about our going to see the movie while we were sitting in the theater before the show even started. Someone on Facebook replied, asking for our review. I volunteered to write such a review, and this blog is me making good on that promise.
I’m going to write this in two parts. The first part can be read before you see the film. It will give my general impressions without giving away too much of the plot. The second part will come with a “Spoiler Alert.” In that second half, I will address some of the particulars of this film, specifics that are peculiar to this film and thus might “spoil” it for some if they were to read it before seeing the movie.
Okay, part one. As for an overall impression of the film, I give this movie 3½ out of 5 stars. When viewing this film, Christians should bear in mind that it is entertainment, not evangelism. This isn’t Biblical exposition in documentary form; it’s a Hollywood production.
Viewed in that light, Risen is an interesting piece of historical fiction. It is entertaining. And it even manages to challenge you to think a little bit. It does so by presenting a very familiar story from a very different perspective, that of the Romans.
This perspective is clearly seen in various characters and scenes. The Roman soldiers charged with guarding the tomb get more lines of dialogue in this script than most of the apostles. Their inclusion in this story, and in more than one scene, deftly weaves into the fabric of the story the never told story of the guards’ part in the post resurrection narrative. It is a very interesting take on Matthew 28:11-15, one I’ve never seen portrayed before.
Furthermore, Pilate (portrayed by Peter Firth) gets more lines and more scenes in this movie than the apostles. I’ve only seen the film once, and I don’t have a script available to me to count the lines, but I’d be willing to bet that in Risen, Pilate gets more lines than even the risen “Yeshua.”
Of course, the most obvious evidence that this movie Risen is told from the Roman perspective is found in the lead character, a Roman Tribune named Clavius (played by actor Joseph Fiennes). Clavius is a military tribune commanding the detachment of the Roman army assigned to Judea, answerable to Pilate.
The acting is very good, as is the cinematography and production design. See the film Risen for what it is, don’t expect it to be something it isn’t, and you should have an enjoyable evening of entertainment.
Now, if you want details from my perspective, look for my follow up review.