Another Jesus Christ biopic? Not as you’d imagine. Risen stirs a fresh perspective into an ancient biblical tale, but disappointingly lacks faith in its own imagination – rather ironically given the theme. The story of the resurrection is as omnipotent as its protagonist, yet difficult to get across on the big screen without it appearing tawdry. Despite visual shortcomings and an overall lack of conviction, Risen should be at least saluted for its unorthodox angle.
We are first introduced to Jesus Christ in a harrowing crucifixion scene, hanging motionless as two fellow Judeans writhe and scream either side of him. Intrigue is aroused regarding Yeshua the Nazarene (Cliff Curtis) and his almost immediate death on the cross (it being natural to hang for days whilst still alive). Shortly after being entombed, Yeshua’s body goes missing.
With Emperor Tiberius expected in town soon, prefect Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) assigns his tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) and aide Lucius (Tom Felton) to recover the body. Pilate’s fears are that Yeshua’s followers will uphold rumours of a resurrection. The result of such preposterous claims would not be worth discovering ahead of the emperor’s visit. A race against decomposition ensues as they attempt to find the body whilst it is still recognisable, thus exposing theft rather than a phenomenon.
The plot, though haphazard at times, provokes deep contemplation, less about the story itself and more about its derivation. Given the widely held acceptance of Jesus Christ’s existence historically, it is refreshing to be granted a film that goes beyond the mere relaying of an old tale. Risen explores at ground level the possible reasons for Jesus’ messianic persona and the potential misinterpretations of these supposed occurrences.
Fiennes’ performance is strong and provides some touching moments, fighting his own pride as he comes to terms with the potential reality of the messiah’s miraculous capabilities. A philosophical counterbalance arises, with faith looking unflinchingly strong against the bloody sword of the tribune, desperate to see logic prevail.
The tragedy is that the unorthodoxy of the film gradually decays, descending into a series of repetitive interviews with apostles. The beginning promises a dose of humanity in an otherwise hyperbolic tale, but as the film loses its originality it loses its battle against the tawdry and becomes just another Jesus film. Faith in the resurrection of Christ is one thing, but obviously faith in an idea is another.
Risen is released nationwide on 18th March 2016.
Watch the trailer for Risen here: