33AD. Pilate, the Prefect of Judea orders Roman Tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) to discover the whereabouts of the body of a crucified Jewish prophet called Yeshua. Pilate wants to dispel rumors that the prophet has come back to life. Clavius begins his investigation believing Yeshua’s disappearance is a deception instigated by his disciples, but the longer he searches, the more the mystery deepens.
RISEN is a Christian film that consciously aims at non-believers in the audience. Producer Rich Peluso specifically tested the film with this in mind and says, “What we’re seeing from non-Christians and those who do not regularly attend church is that they do not feel preached to. They don’t feel kind of hit over the head with Jesus or the Bible.”
For the most part, Peluso is correct. When I sat down to see this, I had a rough idea I was going to see a movie about Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, but that’s as much as I knew. So I was surprised to see that director Kevin Reynolds (ROBIN HOOD, PRINCE OF THIEVES) and writer Paul Aiello had deliberately used the template of the police procedural.
Clavius is a Roman who believes in the gods, he prays to Mars, and yet he is a character that we recognise as modern, because he employs reason and deduction. He has opportunities to fudge his results and frame his suspects, but his personal integrity and his drive to uncover the truth prevent him from shirking his task. He begins as a non-believer and, as a number of critics have observed, goes on a literal and spiritual journey not dissimilar to that of the Clooney character’s in HAIL CAESAR.
As Clive James once pointed out (whilst having a shot at Roland Barthes), Hollywood loves its Romans played by Brit actors and RISEN carries on this great tradition. Fiennes is good as Clavius. Tom Felton from the Harry Potter series is an adequate sidekick. Peter Firth of television’s Spooks makes a fine Pilate. He has come a long way since his portrayal of “Scooper” in Here Come The Double Deckers (1970). New Zealand’s Cliff Curtis proves his versatility once again in the difficult role of Jesus.
RISEN is a solid yarn that will entertain those who see it as a story and keeps faith with those who believe. It runs for 1 hour and 47 minutes and is currently in limited release in Australia. (6/10)