Directed by Kevin Reynolds.
Starring Joseph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Tom Felton, Cliff Curtis, Maria Botto and Antonio Gil. 107 mins.
One of the best things about movies these days is that they are a lot less violent than they used to be. The levels of mayhem and dismemberment dished out by Arnie and Sly in the 80s/90s in the name of mainstream entertainment just doesn't wash these days. Even horror and Jesus films rarely get an 18 certificate now. Santa Claus and snowmen have won the battle for Christmas but Jesus has yet relinquished his grip on Easter to eggs and chocolate. Risen is an attempt to reclaim the Easter story from the rabid, S&M excesses of The Passion Of The Christ and make the story of history's most fetishised execution nice and uplifting again.
It's general approach is to try and make the story more gritty and realistic, less fantastical; and to come at it from a sideways angle, that of a Roman tribune Clavius (Fiennes) charged with overseeing the end of the crucifixion and then sorting out the mystery of where the body has gone by a desperate Pilate (Firth.) At the beginning the Romans are mystified by all the infighting among the Jews who demand that the cave where the body is buried be guarded less his followers steal the body and make up a story about him being resurrected. When the body does disappear Clavius turns detective trying to find the body and quell the unrest. For most of the story he is the man that turns up after the event, who is off somewhere else when some major biblical event is occurring. He only gets to the crucifixion just as its ending.
It's a modest enterprise but well done. Director Reynolds (who was a friend of Kevin Costner during his superstar years up until they made Waterworld together) works well on a low budget to get a sense of life around Jerusalem 2000 years ago, the dust and the unpleasantness. The credits tell us that it was co-produced by Affirm Films, a Sony off shoot charged with making Christian films, so there's no way that they can change the book too much.
It does have some of the silliness associated with biblical epic, such as dialogue that flips between Roman formalities and modern colloquialism. “I am yet sticky with filth” Fiennes says when he returns from battle and finds himself summoned to see Pilate. It does benefit from the presence of Fiennes Minor. Now in his mid – 40s he has gained a heft to his screen presence and really looks like he could've been a star of some 50s epic like Ben Hur.