Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Movies based on faith are notoriously difficult to review as one does not wish to offend anyone’s belief if critiquing the storyline. Being born and raised Catholic, I was well schooled about Jesus Christ and, released just in time for the Easter movie-going audience, RISEN continues the story that ended with Martin Scorsese’s THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and depicts the events between the crucifixion and the Ascension.
Joseph Fiennes (Ralph’s younger, more handsome brother who is best known for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) plays Clavius, a soldier reporting to Pontius Pilate. After witnessing the crucifixion, Clavius is ordered to ensure the body is firmly ensconced in a tomb/cave as the followers of the prophet, who is called in this Movie by his Hebrew name Yeshua, may steal the body. Three days after the death, the tomb is empty and the body disappears and it is Clavius’ mission to find out what happened.
Let me start by saying what irritated me about RISEN. Peter Firth portrayal of Pilate is perhaps only a tad less fey than Joshua Mostel’s Herod in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Many of the apostles come across more like frat boys in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad versus men of faith. And talented Tom Felton (from the Harry Potter Franchise), as an aide assigned to Clavius to learn the ropes, has so little to do of substance in this movie other than to bat his beautiful blue eyes and look and be obsequious.
What works wonderfully in RISEN is Joseph Fiennes’ strong performance and screen presence. Clavius is majestic and brooding and when the circumstances change when he meets Yeshua, there is a clarity than is inspiring to watch. I also admired Cliff Curtis’ interpretation of Yeshua. The Movie looks great despite its lack of a big budget. And I genuinely appreciated Writer/Director Kevin Reynolds’ approach in making RISEN. It is more like a television police procedural than the standard Biblical epics we have seen in the past. That’s what I enjoyed and respected the most; I sat back and was engrossed in an extended version of what could really be called CSI: Jerusalem.
Sony Pictures Canada release RISEN, in theatres Friday, February 19, 2016.