While Jesus is not the central on-screen character, He is the heart of the story.
- Teddy James
The latest movie from Affirm Films proves that Christians can make a great film not only with a strong faith-based message, but also with the same high production values as a big-budget Hollywood film.
Risen begins where most films about Jesus end, the resurrection. The film’s protagonist, Clavius, is a powerful Roman army tribune who has just completed a brutal campaign fighting and executing people who actively rebelled against Rome. Shortly after returning home, he is tasked with finding the missing body of a crucified Israelite.
Clavius does not understand why finding this one body is so important, but he has his orders and he will fulfill his mission. He must work quickly and find the body before it is unrecognizable due to decomposition.
Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes, and his aide Lucius infiltrate, investigate, and interrogate Jesus’ remaining 11 disciples.
While Jesus is not the central on-screen character, He is the heart of the story. The crucified man begins to woo the unsympathetic, unbelieving Clavius through the stories and lives of those who profess to believe Jesus has risen from the dead.
“We wanted to do something different from what had come before,” said script cowriter Kevin Reynolds. “So I came up with the idea that Risen would be told as a detective story.”
“I loved Kevin’s idea that our audience would be able to experience something ancient and sacred as if it were brand new,” said Mickey Liddell, founder of LD Entertainment. “Kevin’s approach gives you the opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of Clavius, this skeptical Roman soldier who is really confused about all these crazy things that are going on in Judea. He’s not searching for Christ’s body to further his political or religious agenda; he’s just following orders.”
This creative story line not only makes for a redemptive story, it also makes for an exciting and engrossing movie.
There are a few cautions to note for parents. Because Clavius is searching for a dead body, one of the first places he examines is a pit where Rome throws all the victims of execution. The scene is handled with great modesty, not showing any gore, although the descriptions and reactions of characters make it clear what is before them.
Several scenes depict Clavius and others praying to and making offerings to pagan gods. At the beginning of the film, there is also a battle scene that is handled with restraint. The film is rated PG-13 for biblical violence including some disturbing images.
While Risen is not, strictly speaking, a biblically accurate movie, it is a film filled with biblical integrity and respect. It aims to tell the story of Jesus’s resurrection from a new perspective. To that end, it creates a fictional narrative to tell true events. While it aims to entertain, it also inspires and helps believers and nonbelievers see the story of Jesus’s resurrection through a brand new set of eyes.
Risen released in theaters February 19. Click here for more information and to watch the official trailer.
Editor’s note: This review first appeared in the March 2016 issue of AFA Journal.