Review: ‘Risen’ Gets the Message Out Without Being Preachy
This is not the kind of film I normally watch. I didn’t see any of the trailers and only ended up seeing it due to my grandparents wanting to see something in theaters with me. So I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it did exceed those expectations. Overall, I have to admit that it was pretty decent.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 3.5
Visually, I was rather impressed with the set and costumes. Bible films used to be the movies the studios would go all out on with the budgets, but as talk about religion has become more and more heated and controversial, most don’t want to spend lots of money on films that may cause some to riot over. As a result most religious films today don’t have huge budgets, “Noah” (2014) being an exception. You can normally tell their hearts are in it, but the actual look of the film tends to be television quality. While it’s nothing that will set your world on fire it does look like they filmed in the ruins of time specific places. It’s doubtful that it was the real locations but for the most part they look good.
The acting is all fine, again nothing amazing but everyone does fine. Joseph Fiennes is a bit on the stoic side; I haven’t quite figured out if it’s him or the script. Tom Felton plays probably his most likable character… ever, as one of Pontius Pilate’s soldier… I know I’m as surprised as you. The actor playing Jesus, Cliff Curtis, is NOT your old school blonde haired blue-eyed Jesus. Needless to say I don’t think Jesus was a white guy so I was delighted to see someone who looked more like what I imagined from the people of that area and descriptions in the Bible itself. Then, I found out he’s actually from New Zealand but you know what, I’ll still take it as it still feels more accurate than an European looking man that appears in so many depictions. His take on Jesus is interesting as while he does normal Jesus things like rise from the dead and heal lepers, he doesn’t feel like what we normally see. He feels human and in particular, a human that people gravitate towards.
The plot was an interesting way to tell the story. In some ways “Risen” feels like an answer to the “Passion of the Christ” criticisms of focusing too much on his suffering and not enough on the message. It is about a soldier for Pontius Pilate named Clavius (Fiennes) stationed in Jerusalem when Jesus is crucified. It’s clear he’d much rather be anywhere else, but is still loyal to the empire. After helping seal up the cave Jesus was buried in, he moves on with his duties like breaking in his new partner (Felton). But when news comes that this Jesus fellow has gotten out alive and well, he is tasked by Pilate to find him or whoever robbed his grave before the Emperor of Rome arrives. From here the first half is basically a cop film of Clavius putting together the pieces and interviewing people about Jesus until he finds him and must make the most important decision of his life. While it is pretty amusing seeing the cop film tropes play out in this time period, it does go on a bit too long. However, once Jesus enters the picture things do pick up more.
Entertainment Value – 3.5
It’s not the most affecting film about Christ I’ve ever seen, but then again it’s been a long time since a film like this hasn’t made me shake my head so you know… baby steps. So cards on the table, I consider myself a religious person; Catholic to be exact. I’m something of a lapse Catholic in that I don’t always go to church on Sundays, however I’d like to think I follow the ethics of the religion. That being said I don’t agree with the church on everything as I am about as liberal as they come. I wouldn’t consider myself an authority on the subject, but I know enough that I feel confident talking about it. I think a big reason this film works as well as it does is the director Kevin Reynolds who actually directed my personal favorite Robin Hood movie, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” However, this always feels like a movie first and foremost. I’ve read enough reviews of the “God’s Not Dead,” “Heaven Is For Real,” or “Son of God” to know they’re not subtle about their message and that’s what I think I was dreading going into the movie. Instead, the movie is mostly here’s the story, if you get anything out of seeing the main character be affected by Jesus’ message than great, but there’s other stuff to enjoy. My only issue is for a story about Jesus and his message it never personally grabbed me emotionally as much as it probably should have. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was never as dark as it needed to be to make Jesus’ resurrection feel like the return of light it should be. Still, despite all of that I’m so glad this film didn’t feel the need to shove its thoughts and opinions down my throat.
Rewatchability – 2
I don’t plan on seeing “Risen” again, but if I find myself in that situation then I can deal with it. I can’t imagine there being much I didn’t catch from my first viewing.
“Risen” is not preachy and that's really its difference from a lot of other religious films. It also seems to remember that it is a film first and not supposed to be the same as the word of God himself. A well-made film that does manage to get its message out there thanks to a pro at the helm. I can't imagine it'll make believers out of anyone, but I'm not even sure if it was ever its only point. I give it 3 stars out of 5.