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Risen: a review

February 9th, 2016

I finally got to see the movie Risen and it’s like no other movie that revolves around The Greatest Story Ever Told. I have to start with a story of my watching The Passion of the Christ with a Jewish friend and we both saw two different movies while viewing the same story. I saw the story of my people. He saw a movie where the Jews were the bad guys. The same kind of thing could be said of Risen where the believer and the non-believer will likely come away with different takes of the same movie.

This is me being selfish, because as a Christian this movie is for me. I can’t imagine non-Christians finding nothing to like in Risen, because it’s a fine movie, but I know I’m loading up a lifetime of Christian experience when I see scenes like Jesus touching an untouchable leper and watching a healing. I don’t need more evidence, and I don’t need a huge expansion of that moment because the full weight of that scene is well informed by what I already know of both Jesus and lepers. I’M that leper, and I don’t know if a non-Christian would come away with what immediately struck me as a profound visual shorthand for how I see my faith.

That said, I watched Risen with my wife and 14 year old daughter and we were riveted throughout. While the time period is “sandals and robes” the framework of the story is more like a whodunit where a Roman centurion has the unfortunate mission of having to find a certain body that appears to have gone missing. This makes Risen perhaps the most unique of Bible films. The lead is Clavius, a fictional character played by Joseph Fiennes (Young Shakespeare in Love) who goes from just following orders to being obsessed with the truth. All of our disbelief is well represented by Clavius, and the story doesn’t offer easy answers. The miraculous is underplayed while the humanity is placed front and center. I loved the unique addition of the Roman guard’s plight because it’s one of the few Bible-based movies where I couldn’t guess the ending.

Back to my daughter, she picked out Tom Felton who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series as one of the other Roman guards. The kid has grown up into a capable actor. That makes for a weird 6 degrees of separation because Felton has now shared a set with Joseph Fiennes in this movie and his brother Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort.

Anyways, this is a great movie worth checking out, particularly for people of faith.


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