Risen, A New Spin On A Familiar Story

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say this.  I just went to see a Christian movie in theaters and I was not disappointed.  Ahhhh, it feels good to get that out.

Anyone who knows me, knows I typically don’t like Christian movies, sure I like the heart behind them, but I’ve had enough of Lifetime quality acting (War Room), terrible dialogue (Left Behind) and drawn out repentance scenes in front of a cross (Fireproof) to last a lifetime.  Some may call me cynical, I call myself a fan of good things.  Risen, directed by Kevin Reynolds (Count of Monte Cristo), I’m happy to say, is a good thing.

If you were unaware, Risen is a fictional Bible based thriller (is that a genre now?) told from the perspective of a Roman Legionaire Clavius (Joseph Finnes).  This shift in perspective bypasses the “more of the same” trap that most Jesus centric films face and instead approaches it in some very interesting ways.  In other words this is not the movie for an in depth look at Jesus’ time in ministry (Jesus Film) and his path to the cross (Passion of the Christ).  Instead Director Kevin Reynolds helps us see this historic occasion from the perspective of a puppet bureaucrat and his enforcer Clavius.

Pilate (Peter Firth), not wanting to upset the sadducees and fearing the Emperor’s visit to a city in Chaos tells Clavius and apprentice Lucius played by Tom Felton (Harry Potter Franchise) to deal with this “Nazarene” so his followers won’t cause a disruption.  Easier said then done.  As the story goes, and the trailer conveys, Christ’s body goes missing on the third day and they are left to track down his body lest the disciples use the missing body to fabricate the Messiah legend they’ve been talking about all these years.  Will he be successful?  Does that work?  Yeah, it kind of does.

Risen is like an is like a mash up of 24, CSI: Roman Empire and Lord of the rings.

Risen is not perfect for sure.  There were a few small things that bothered me:  (1) Winks regarding the shroud of Turin (2) A few characters who were a little to quirky to take seriously and (3) The “I’m all above love man…” Jesus, but not enough to soil the experience.  Keep in mind, this movie is a work of fiction.  It’s like most movies that are “based on true events” where twenty percent is true and eighty percent is conjecture, but that’s okay.  It’s interesting conjecture and left me thinking “It probably would have happened like that.”

I’m not sure Risen will change any hearts, but it will make for some very good Easter movie clips at Church!

Overall, I enjoyed Risen, I might even say it’s one of the best Christian themed films I’ve seen in awhile.  Sure saying that doesn’t mean much considering most movies in the past six years have been the movie equivalent to the burning bag of excrement on someone’s doorstep, but still.  It’s good.  Without the need to qualify that as good for a faith based film.

Risen is a well made, though not perfect, political thriller centered around the death and resurrection of Christ in some very clever ways.  Not only that, but it makes the resurrection of Jesus feel important and even exciting.  Though I don’t believe skeptics will be swayed as Clavius was, Risen presents a thrilling case for the resurrection checking off apologetic checkboxes as the film rolls on and begs the question, what if this were true?  If Jesus did truly raise from the dead, as I believe He did, would you believe?  If there was evidence, which I believe there is, would it sway you?  Or, would you like Pilate remain unwilling to look beyond your current worldview and explain it away?  But, I suppose the opposite of that could be asked of Christians as well.  Food for thought.

Bryce Cooley
I've been doing some form of ministry since 2000. For 13 years I was involved in the youth ministry at Cordova Neighborhood Church as everything from youth intern to youth pastor. God has led me and my lovely wife Bethany to Church of the Foothills where I currently reside as the Digital Publishing Coordinator. I'm excited to see where God leads my wife and I.