By Linley McCord
The first of 2016’s religiously-focused films, “Risen” retells the Biblical story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead from the perspective of the ruling Romans. It’s a creative twist on the narrative many people know well, but it isn’t done exceptionally well when it had so much potential.
The film opens at the end of the story, showing Clavius (Joseph Fiennes)—a Roman officer—stumbling through the Judean desert. The rest of the movie is a flashback to the last month or so of his life. The movie then follows his order to have Jesus killed, his discussions with Pontius Pilot, the manhunt for Jesus, and then his—spoiler alert—following of the 11 remaining disciples.
The first half the movie was actually pretty impressive. Both from a Biblical and historical standpoint, Hollywood is spot-on with how the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus happened from a Biblical and historical standpoint. But then Clavius abandons the manhunt when he sees Jesus post-resurrection and tags along with the disciples as they run from chasing Romans. That’s where it gets weird.
While the script was definitely corny at times, it’s significantly better than some other religious movies. The first half of the movie will even give you hope that this is actually going to be a solid film. But it rapidly goes downhill when it becomes not historically accurate and fairly plotless.
Frankly, the manhunt portion of the movie could have been the whole thing, and that’s what it was marketed as being. That’s not what the film is about. The search for Jesus felt rushed and halfhearted—it was clear the writers just wanted the Roman to have his spiritual experience.
“Risen” has strong character development, potentially because it only really focuses on one guy. Clavius does have an apprentice named Lucius (played by Tom Felton, who was Draco Malfoy—think on that for a minute). Good characters, but nothing exciting happens to anyone except Clavius.
It’s a decent movie, so it earns itself a 5/10 stars.
Rated PG13 for violence.