By Tyson Thorne

April 2, 2019

MovieReview Risen Large

Back in 2003 I was, for the first time ever, excited about a Christian movie. I know that sounds odd for a guy who has been a Christian most of his life, but honestly, Christian movies from the 1980's and '90's were pretty cheesy. Most people believe the age of poorly produced Christian films ended with the release of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in 2004. Not for me. For me it ended a year earlier with an MGM film titled Luther. It starred Joseph Fiennes as the "arrogant little monk" who started the Reformation. It is still one of my favorite movies.

So imagine my elation when I heard about the movie Risen, also starring Joseph Fiennes. Instead of a reformer he plays the role of a first century Roman soldier tasked with the mission to locate the body of Jesus. The movie came out in 2016 but I only became aware of it recently (thank you, sister) and decided it needed a proper review. Unfortunately Risen was produced by Sony's faith films division called Affirm Films. I say "unfortunately" because this movie house has been responsible for some really good movies, and some very poor ones. I was hoping this film would fall into the first category.

Because the timeline threw me at the start, I figure that is as good a place to begin as any. Jesus has already been arrested, tried and is hanging on the cross. Joseph Fiennes' character is with his Roman troops putting down an uprising. Fiennes kills their leader, a man named Barabbas. Sound familiar? The revolutionary may have been released so that Jesus would be executed, but his life was over pretty quickly anyway. He dies before Jesus does. While there is no history to back this up, its an interesting fiction.

Mary Magdalene is depicted as a prostitute, which fits with Catholic tradition but is an idea found nowhere in Scripture. Furthermore, when the Romans seek her out to interview her regarding the "theft" of Jesus' body, they find her in a brothel. Had she been a woman of the street before meeting Jesus, she certainly would not return to that way of life. It is a rather entertaining, if inaccurate, scene.

A number of other liberties are taken as well. For instance, Fiennes' character, named Clavius, is in the upper room when Jesus appears to the disciples. Most of these liberties are normal when retelling history from a fictional character's point of view. Those who read historical fiction novels are used to this, others not so much. It's not meant to mislead, it is intended to entertain. Just be aware it isn't all historically, or Biblically, correct.

I'm not going to walk through the entire movie, and I dare not reveal any spoilers. I will, however, point out that the scene where Clavius finally has an opportunity to talk to Jesus one-on-one is particularly well done. Jesus asks the investigator two questions, and they hold up to Jesus' personality as revealed in the New Testament.

I like the movie Luther better as the supporting cast was superior, but Risen has its moments and is well worth watching. If you can, make arrangements to watch it with the family after Easter dinner.

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