Risen Review
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It’s been a while since Biblical epics were popular in Hollywood—but, in recent years, films like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings have been finding their way to theaters. Now, as churches observe the season of Lent, director Kevin Reynolds offers his take on another popular Bible story in Risen.

Risen tells the story of the Resurrection as seen through the eyes of a Roman official. Joseph Fiennes stars as Clavius, a powerful Roman Tribune—the man at the right hand of Judea’s prefect, Pilate (Peter Firth). In order to keep peace in Judea during the Emperor’s impending visit, Pilate orders the crucifixion of a seemingly harmless teacher known as Yeshua (Cliff Curtis). But when the man’s body goes missing and his followers begin claiming that he’s risen from the dead, Pilate sends Clavius and his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), to find the body before the Jews revolt.

  
 
Risen isn’t heavy-handed or preachy. Instead, it plays out like a kind of Biblical police procedural. Tasked with finding Yeshua’s missing body to disprove the reports that the man known as the Nazarene was the Jews’ long-awaited Messiah, Clavius sets out to question believers and track down disciples, paying informants to help him find key characters in the story. And as the days pass, he becomes more frustrated and more desperate.

In following Clavius on his mission, the film tells a familiar story in a way that feels fresh and different. There’s nothing especially surprising here—nothing that will shock viewers or stir up controversy. But in adding an outsider to the mix, it gives the story an interesting new point of view—not that of a disciple or a believer but of a man who’s supposed to prove that none of it ever happened.

During his investigation, Clavius meets the kind of characters that you might expect: the overjoyed believers and the flighty followers. But they aren’t all too good to be true. They’re normal people—people who are sometimes angry and hot-headed, people with questions and doubts, who don’t have all of the answers. They’re hopeful but uncertain. One of the disciples even admits to Clavius that their teacher said that he’d rise from the dead, but none of them really believed it. And this motley group of imperfect characters gives the film an honest, sincere feel.

Risen is sure to be a hit with churchgoing audiences—but, admittedly, it isn’t likely to have a much wider appeal. The storytelling is sometimes abbreviated—and while anyone who’s attended Sunday School will know the characters and their role in the story, others will miss the finer points. With its fresh perspective and light touch, though, it’s still an enjoyable and entertaining—and well-made—religious drama.


Blu-ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of this Biblical drama is filled with interesting behind-the-scenes featurettes. Extras like Creating A.D. Jerusalem and The Battle of the Zealots Deconstructed take a closer look at the settings, the locations, and the filmmakers’ attention to details. Script to Screen discusses the story—and how the filmmakers used Biblical details and a non-Biblical character to tell a well-known story in a whole new way. And Mystery of the Resurrection: Making Risen gives an overview of the project—the story, the characters, and the production—as seen through the eyes of the cast and crew members. It’s an intriguing look at the film—and the cast members offer an insightful (and often entertaining) perspective.

Other extras include five deleted scenes, which explore more of Clavius’s investigation, and a more in-depth commentary with producer and writer Patrick and Paul Aiello. But if your time is limited, stick with The Mystery of the Resurrection. The cast interviews are definitely interesting—and their perspective will give you a new appreciation for the film and its message.


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