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Risen Rises Above Other Biblical Cinema

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It was a cold day and I wanted someplace warm to hangout. My choices were to hang out at the library, which would not have been a bad choice,  or go to the movies. I was reluctant to see the new “Christian” movie not because I heard it was bad but because the movies are just to expensive to waste money on another bad “Christian” movie. I am glad to report my choice was vindicated by a very good movie.

Director Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Count of Monte Cristo) helms the old/new resurrection story and shows us the what the story of the resurrection would be like if seen through the eyes of a senior Roman guard (Joseph Fiennes). Flipping the perspective made this movie more enjoyable and offered a few surprises that you don’t normally get from Easter movies. Those of us know how the Easter story goes are not easily surprised.

The movie begins with a unit of Romans trying to take down an insurgency of zealots. This is the most action the movie sees but is well worth it to show the violence these guards faced in a time of occupation. They dispatch the zealots with a fair amount of violence and with a stoic Roman flair for tactical initiative.

Jospeh Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Enemy at the Gate) is not new to religious themed movies, having played Martin Luther in the movie Luther; but in this film he plays a conflicted character of a different sort. Fiennes plays Clavius, a war weary senior Roman guard who is charged with finding the missing body of Jesus. Good luck with that, right?

After the quick opening, the movie takes on a slower methodical pace as Clavius must investigate the lapse of his guards that results the missing body of the King of the Jews, Clavius interview witnesses trying to discover the whereabouts of the disciple who have been pegged as the perpetrators. It is through these interviews that we are introduced to characters like Miriam and Bartholomew, both of whom give great performances. Bartholomew response to Clavius’s grilling truly made me smile. It was nice to see a life changed by Jesus and his joyful response rather the fearful and manic portrayals I’ve seen in the past.

About midway through the movie Clavius reaches a breaking point in his case after a surprising encounter with the living Savior. For the rest of the movie Reynolds departs from the traditional telling of the post resurrection story and places Clavius as a surrogate audience member who gives us a “what if ” perspective. What if I were with the disciples? What if I had traveled with  the disciples? It is this perspective that gives Risen the edge over other re-tellings of this critical moment in Christian history and theology.

I’d like to see more “perspective” movies. I’d like to see the resurrection story told through the eyes of the lame man shoved through the roof, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and their conversion with the Savior along the road, or maybe the the little boy who gave up his lunch to feed the 5,000.

Reynolds gives us a good movie from a great point of view. He shows us the daily in’s and out’s and the grimy day in a life of a Roman solider in occupation.

Fiennes, as well as others, offers a great performance and shows us a stern, but not cruel, portrayal of a man who is under authority who must deal with his own fears and doubts.

The movie is good enough to see more than once or to show your youth ministry once it comes out on Netflix.

If you’re  looking for some Bible Study material to use with your youth ministry around the Risen story, I recommend checking out Interlinc’s free material.


Your Turn

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