Religious themed films have been a staple almost since the birth of motion pictures themselves. Those who believe in religious ideals as well as those who do not have always been fascinated by the tales of the Bible from the apocalyptic tales of the Old Testament to the story of the life of Jesus. Especially in the past couple of years religious epics have become more common, perhaps as the certainty of our world becomes more unsure. Films like Noah and Exodus have brought Hollywood back to the religious epics of a time gone by when the stories of the bible were commonplace in Hollywood. The latest biblical film tale comes from director Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo) and is titled Risen.
In 33 AD Judea, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) orders Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a powerful Roman Tribune, to investigate the disappearance of the body of Jesus three days after his crucifixion and death. With people claiming the disappearance to be a divine resurrection, Pilate wants to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.
Risen is a fascinating story told from a perspective we don’t often get to see in religious films. Fiennes’ Clavius is a staunch unbeliever and is determined to find out who took the body of Jesus. But as his investigation goes deeper into the lives of the followers of Jesus, he starts to uncover truths he did not expect to find, causing him to question his own beliefs. Fiennes is excellent here and I still believe he is one of the most underrated actors out there. Ever since his wonderful performance in Shakespeare in Love was ignored and overshadowed by Gwyneth Paltrow’s acclaimed but average performance, he never seems to get the credit he deserves. Risen is much more of a detective mystery story than a religious film, never preaching to the audience but instead just portraying another approach to a well-known story and doing it with class. The story is intriguing and engaging with great performances all around. Highly recommended.