I’ve always believed there are many great Bible stories that would make great movies. I mean, look back to the times of the judges and kings of the Old Testament, and you’ll find many stories that could be amazing on the “big screen.” A couple years ago, I thought we were going there with Noah, but that turned out to be a huge failure (see my review here). I didn’t even bother seeing Exodus: Gods and Kings. All hope is not lost, though, as screenwriter and director, Kevin Reynolds, and gang looked to tell a new tale based on the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion. Risen is a great example of what a Bible-based movie could be when you get a good story, director, producer, and actors together!
The basic plot looks like this:
“Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune (played by Joseph Fiennes), and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.”
It’s a story I have honestly not thought of much before. I’ve heard the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection so much throughout my life, but I’d never really thought much about the time between the cross and the empty tomb. The Bible doesn’t say much about it — probably because it doesn’t really matter what happened — but I really appreciate the screenwriters’ ability to go there. It really helps to fill in the gaps of what could have happened. Not only is it exciting to watch a huge manhunt, but it also helped me understand the true importance of Jesus. The government officials knew exactly what could happen if they did not find Him — it could change the world!
I also really like how the main story looked through the eyes of a skeptic from the Roman military. While Clavius’ story is fictional, I can’t help but wonder if he might represent one or more people who witnessed the crucifixion and all the craziness afterward — from the earthquake to the resurrection to the searching to His appearances and eventually to the start of the church. I had jokingly said that I was going to see the sequel to The Passion of the Christ, but it ended up being much more than that. It picked up right at the cross, but looking through the eyes of a Roman helped to see Jesus in a new light, and that helped reinforce what I already believe.
Aside from the engaging story, I have to say this movie was made very well. Sometimes, Christian movies can come across as incredibly cheesy and non-engaging, especially to the non-Christian. While it is impossible for me to look through the eyes of an atheist, many have gone on record (in pre-release screenings) to say they did not feel this movie was preaching at them or was made just for the church-goer. That is fantastic! It also goes to show that it is possible to keep doing this sort of movie. If we keep getting great actors, producers, and directors, Christians can make movies that not only compete with the rest of Hollywood, but they can have a positive impact on others who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus.
One thing that I have to mention, even though it might seem small to others, is that I appreciate the casting of Jesus (Cliff Curtis). In most of our television or movie adaptations of the Christ, we portray Him as very white. I know there is a history of this that goes back to paintings and all that, but I love that this movie showed us a Jesus that actually looks like He could have been born in Bethlehem! Not only does the actor look like that, he also conveyed a Jesus that I want to be around. My wife even said to me afterward, “I really like Jesus. I want to hang out with Him.” And while I joked with her that she will some day in heaven, I couldn’t help but think the same thing. This movie’s portrayal of Christ made me love Jesus even more. He was joyous, loving, and forgiving — exactly how I believe He is!
Yes, this story does not follow the Bible word-for-word. It is a piece of fiction based on actual events. They do take creative license throughout the film, especially where the Bible is silent. I did not see or hear anything that overtly went against what I know from the Bible, though. There was never a time when I thought, “What!? I can’t believe they did that!” This is the complete opposite experience I had with Noah, where I was shocked throughout most of the movie.
Sure, there are always areas for improvement, but overall, I really enjoyed this movie! I think it belongs right up there with The Passion of the Christ in the short list of quality Bible-based movies. I pray that it has a positive impact on the world, and I pray more good Christian movies can be made like this. The Gospel of Jesus is the greatest story ever told. Let’s act like it when we make movies about it!
For more information about the movie and to see where it is playing, check out their website at http://www.risen-movie.com.