Risen: Singing to the Choir?

There will be a number of reviews of Risen.  So let me add one more.  In short, this is going to be one of those movies that Christians will love (or at least like) and non-Christians will find odd, hence it will be one of those movies that end up singing to the choir.  It’s not up to the standard of The Passion of the Christ but its not as bad as other Christian movies that have attempted Christian themes like this in the past.

I am sure there will be a lot of criticism of the theology of the movie, forgetting that it is a movie.  I was expecting a more apologetic view of the resurrection, and it wasn’t quite that either.  But I want to focus on the movie as a movie.

As a movie, frankly, I found it disconnected.  It was very ‘bitsy’ and missed coherence.  If I were not a Christian I am not sure I would have cared if the movie resolved or not because the drama and tension dropped off very quickly.

The directing, likewise seemed disconnected.  For example here is what I think some of the directors notes would have been:

  • Peter Firth (Pilate): “You are in a Shakespearean tragedy set in first century Jerusalem”.
  • Tom Felton (Lucius): “You are in a BBC detective series like Mid-Sommer Murders set in first century Jerusalem”.
  • Stephen Hagan (Bartholomew): “Ummm….you know….just have fun with it.  Go nuts”.
  • Joseph Finnes (Clavius): “Stare.  A Lot.  Usually at the floor like you are looking for your keys”.

That being said, there were some things I liked about the movie:

  1. It was about the resurrection.  There have been some great movies about the life and death of Jesus.  But this is about the one thing that means you can’t just take Jesus as just another teacher or tragic death.  What the movie missed was why this matters so much.
  2. Yeshua.  While Yeshua (Jesus) was not the main character, a strength of the movie, it was played so well by Cliff Curtis.  He is not a good-looking anglo guy and carries the character so believably.
  3. The actors didn’t have American accents.  Because so many production companies that focus on Christian themes are based in America we get American accents in Palestine.  On the other hand here we get English accents in Palestine.  This means there are times you are thinking you are watching Life of Brian or a Guy Ritchie film but it is a refreshing change.
  4. Cinematography.  While the directing and the script let the film down, the cinematography, the usual achilles heel of Christian movies, has depth and balance.  (Hey, it matters to me!).

There are some questions you will want to ask if you were watching the movie with someone:

  1. If you were Clavius, would you have been convinced Jesus rose from the dead?
  2. Do you think Clavius’ resultant changes were consistent or exaggerated?  What would you have done?
  3. What difference would it make today if Jesus was raised from the dead?

Is it worth watching?  Yes, but don’t have high expectations.


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