Only weeks after the Coen Brothers imaginary Biblical epic featured in their latest film, ‘Hail Caesar’, it seems that we now have a real life swords and sandals movie just in time for Easter. I haven’t seen many Biblical films and the ones I have seen have been pretty poor so naturally my expectations were quite low for ‘Risen’.
‘Risen’ tells the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, however it focuses very much on the search for his missing body after he has risen. The story is told from the perspective of the Roman tribune, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) who is charged with leading the search for the body. First off I really liked this premise, it gives the well known story a different slant and allows the audience to see new reactions to the events portrayed in the movie. My biggest worry with Biblical or religious movies is always whether or not they will attempt to create the supernatural moments or not. Thankfully ‘Risen’ does not, instead it uses a clever collection of techniques to hint at or imply what is happening without actually showing it. At the same time I thought the film was choosing not to patronize its audience as it was clearly aware that the majority of them would know this story and would be able to use their imaginations for the more supernatural elements.
Although don’t get too excited as ‘Risen’ wasn’t all good. A lot of the actors or actresses who filled small roles were pretty terrible, some would only have a couple of lines but still managed to mess them up. Whilst it can be excused due to the small size of the parts it still takes you out of the film. Adding to this was the choice of some of the dialogue, some of which really didn’t suit the era of the film. The main cast do make up for these smaller roles though with Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton and Peter Firth all delivering good performances, Fiennes being the most convincing of the trio. The film stays quite close to the source material but towards the end of the film due to the premise elements to the narrative are changed or added in to suit the film. This didn’t particularly bother me as I liked some of these scenes but I could see why it might frustrate others. Amongst this narrative there are moments of action which quite surprised me considering the story that the film tells but I thought these were worked in well. I was also taken aback by how emotional certain moments of the film were, when you really think about it it certainly is an emotional story but as it’s told so often it has maybe lost this over the years but parts of the story are conveyed well in terms of that emotion. There’s even room for a few laughs too which is usually unheard of in the often dull genre of the Biblical movie.
So I have to say that ‘Risen’ is definitely one of the better Biblical films that I have seen. It has an interesting premise that is executed well. It sticks to the original story quite closely with some changes which may or may not bother viewers. The film has action, emotion and holds your attention successfully. It’s just a shame that the smaller parts weren’t focused on enough in terms of their quality as they really bring down what is quite a credible movie.
Rating – 7.5/10
Question: What’s your favourite Biblical/Religious movie?
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