Film: Risen - new Biblical epic out in Holy Week

Since the very successful 'Passion of Christ' directed by Mel Gibson, showing there was a market for such films, Hollywood has sought to cash in and find other biblical themes. Some of these have oscillated from the naff to the bizarre. 'Risen', written by Paul Aiello, however, which covers the period between the crucifixion of Christ and the Ascension, is both gripping and faith affirming. Directed by Hollywood veteran, Kevin Reynolds, ( who collaborated with Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves) and starring Joseph Fiennes (the lead in Shakespeare in Love) it tells the familiar Resurrection story through the eyes of a battle weary Roman Military Tribune called Clavius. Clavius is at the crucifixion, and oversees the sealing of the tomb in which Jesus' corpse is laid to rest. Then when the body vanishes from the tomb, it is he who is dispatched by Pontius Pilate to find out what has happened. Everyone assumes that the body has been stolen by Christ's followers to add credence to Jesus's claim that he is the longed for Messiah and that he would rise again.

Even though as Christians we know the end of the story, we become involved in Clavius' hunt, and experience his shock when he finally tracks down the disciples hidden away in an upper room, and finds that Jesus is indeed alive, but elusive. When Jesus disappears again, Clavius follows the disciples to Galilee where he joins them on the seashore for the well known breakfast of barbecued fish. Putting a fictional character into such well known gospel passages, is a high risk strategy but because of the calibre of the acting and the production values it really works, bringing the wonder of the resurrection alive in a new way to both Christian and non-believer alike.

Joseph Fiennes is very at home in the part and is both rugged and subtle as he goes from hardened cynicism to the beginnings of belief. The cast is international with hardly an American accent in sight. Mary Magadalene is played by Maria Botto, a luminous Argentinian actress and Jesus by Cliff Curtis, a New Zealander of Maori extraction, who has the right balance of masculinity, compassion and charisma to help you to understand why the apostles left everything to follow him.

Having seen an early preview of the film, I can't wait to see it again. It is extremely engaging on all levels, and has such high production values that it will appeal to both committed Christians and to those who just want a good night out with an exciting film. How ironic that it should be Hollywood that has produced such a wonderful evangelistic tool, which I am sure we will be using in years to come! It will be in cinemas nation wide on March 18th, (Palm Sunday weekend) so look out for it. Do try and see it on that first weekend if possible, as numbers then determine how long a cinema will book it for. And this is a film that you will want to see more than once and take others to!

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