I’m not a movie critic, but I do love movies. Meaning, I love good movies with real plots, realistic characters, believable dialogue, and historical accuracy. In the past few years, some of the Christian and biblical films that have come out around Easter have promised much, but left me disappointed, or worse, embarrassed that they have the label “Christian.”
RISEN is not one of those movies. This is a good one. In fact, I’d say it’s great.
RISEN isn’t a movie for those who believe in the risen Christ. It’s a movie for those who doubt. Those who question. And because of that it has an authenticity and realism that will resonate with everyone—both those who follow Yeshua and those who wonder if they should.
I’ll share a few reasons why I loved RISEN. (You’ll soon see why I say if you loved THE THIEF or any of the books of The Living Water Series, you’ll love RISEN)
Clavius. Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) is a Roman tribune who steps into the story in the middle of the action. His first encounter with Yeshua and his followers is at the moment of Yeshua’s death—and he spends the rest of the movie trying to catch up—both literally and spiritually.
This Roman tribune is much like Longinus of The Thief—a tough war-weary soldier with a well-hidden compassion who is searching for something more: peace, meaning, “a day without death’. He cannot believe in what is said about Yeshua by his disciples, but neither can he completely discount it. He is today’s unbeliever, searching yet skeptical, wanting to see something amazing, but hardly believing it when he does. His portrayal was brilliant.
A small note: As those of you who’ve read The Thief might recall, Longinus has a loyal underling and friend in Marcus. In Risen, Clavius has the same kind of affinity with his assistant, Lucius (Tom Felton, and yes, that is Draco Malfoy).
The setting. After researching Jerusalem for more than a year for The Thief, I felt like I had returned home as soon as the movie opened. The street scenes, the costumes, the atmosphere were exactly as I had imagined it as I wrote The Thief. I think the movie was filmed mostly in Spain, but the scenes in Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee were fantastically well done.
Yeshua (Cliff Curtis) was perfect. As many of you know, I don’t like to see authors or film-makers putting words in Jesus’ mouth. He no doubt said much that wasn’t recorded in the Bible, but we don’t know what it was. Yeshua says neither too much nor too little. He conveys more love with his expressions and small signs of affection to his disciples than words ever could. And he’s also a historically accurate portrayal of what Jesus most likely looked like. You can read more about that HERE.
The disciples were a surprise and delight, one of my favorite parts of the movie. I often cringe at movies and tv series when it comes to their portrayal of the disciples. They are either devout or doubting, but rarely real. Risen took the portrayal of Yeshua’s followers up a notch. Yes, they were devout and doubting—but they were also radical, joyful, courageous, ridiculous, and completely overwhelmed by what they were experiencing. (I’d watch the movie again just to see Bartholomew’s part.)
My favorite moment (and for most of you not really a spoiler) was when the disciples, fishing on the Galilee, saw and recognized Yeshua waiting on shore for them. They jumped out of the boat and splashed through the waves to throw their arms around him in a group hug to end all group hugs. It was a beautiful moment of friendship, love, and pure shining joy. I hope to experience it myself when I see Jesus waiting for me on the shores of heaven.
If I had to have a complaint about this movie, it would be that there was little time spent on Jesus’s women followers. We get a glimpse of his mother and a beautifully touching scene with Mary Magdalene speaking to Clavius, but I would have loved to see more of both of them.
If you’d like a more detailed review of RISEN, I recommend you to the eloquent Rachel McMillan’s review that you can find HERE.