Risen (12a)

Director: Kevin Reynolds

Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, Cliff Curtis, María Botto, Luis Callejo, Antonio Gil

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“What frightens you?”
“Being wrong. Wagering eternity on him.”

Welcome to one of the biggest and most speculated about events in history. It’s 33 A.D. – a key date for the biblical narrative as it was when Jesus / Yeshua (played here with huge amounts of charisma by Cliff ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Curtis) was crucified and buried. Yes, Risen is the latest bible-em-up reworking of the resurrection, overlapping and following on from the events in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ.

The difference this time is that Director and co-writer Kevin ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Reynolds retells the events through the eyes of a non-believing Roman Centurion named Clavius (Joseph ‘Shakespeare In Love’ Fiennes).

As religious fervor threatens to ignite civil unrest across Judea in the wake of the disappearance of Jesus’s body, the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate (Peter ‘Spooks’ Firth) orders an inquiry into what exactly happened. The religious leaders and Pharisees claim that the body had been stolen by Christ’s followers, the soldiers tasked with guarding the tomb go into hiding fearing for their lives and the rumours of a resurrection start to spread.

Risen (although possibly the biggest spoiler title for a movie ever) starts off effectively setting the scene with Clavius and his men caught up in a bloody skirmish with Jewish renegades. As the events of the first Easter Weekend unfold, turmoil and uncertainty run rampant through the city and it’s well portrayed – and avoids falling into the ‘Life of Brian’ style farce.

Fiennes is good as the hard bitten Clavius and his journey is compelling as he gets to lead, along with his ambitious aide Lucius (Tom ‘Harry Potter’ Felton), the manhunt for Yeshua’s body.

As a Christian who reviews films, I’m often massively let down by the attempts to bring scripture or overtly ‘pro-faith’ stories to the medium of film. I really don’t want to be ‘preached at’ any more than the next cinema goer. The fact that Risen actually works as a historical thriller for much of its running time before eventually getting a bit carried away with the ‘it must be true’ narrative is to the credit of the filmmakers. It’s kind of like an ancient times alternative to a Dan Brown novel.

But seeing as the ‘did Jesus rise from the dead?’ question is one that continues to be asked 2,000 years later, Risen is a thought provoking option for cinema audiences to mull over this Easter.

Thinking Material

You won’t need to be Columbo to unravel the ‘mystery’ of Risen – the film makers make sure that viewers will be in NO DOUBT that Jesus is very much alive (and not just in the hearts of believers). But it doesn’t matter if you’re a fervent God bothered type or a serious sceptic whose somehow never come across the New Testament story of Christ, this is a film that delivers enough thinking and talking points to warrant a decent conversation.
Why does it matter? Well, if Risen is telling the truth – then it changes absolutely everything!

CVM Rating: *** 3 out of 5 stars

Related Films: The Passion of The Christ, Jesus of Nazareth

Additional resources:

  • Damaris Media are providing free resources for those looking to chat about and reflect on issues raised by the film:
  • A Leader’s Guide with quizzes, activities and discussion questions, suitable for community groups of all kinds
  • A special resource aimed at helping church groups talk more about the spiritual issues raised by Risen
  • Video featurettes featuring interviews with cast and crew, as well as clips from the film

These resources will be published at www.risen.damarismedia.com