Religious views aside, biblical tales can be an epic viewing experience and Risen, while not on the scale of some of the great classics, is certainly grand in scale at times.
Set in the year 33AD, Roman Empire Military Tribune, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), is present for the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. When Christ’s resurrection is foretold and comes true, Clavius is tasked by prefect Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to investigating the disappearance of the body.
As Clavius and his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), track down the 12 Disciples and other biblical characters, the Christian tale of Christ unfolds in a unique retelling – both from a non-believer and a Roman’s point of view.
While Paul Aiello’s story provides a refreshing take on this oft-told story, his screenplay with director Kevin Reynolds is not always so successful. The dialogue fluctuates in style from modern to old-world speech and speech patterns, while the cacophony of accents (including, it seems, an Australian Judean and an Irish Roman) make Judea an unprecedented multicultural melting pot.
For the most part, the cast deliver the goods, with Fiennes in particular, providing a fine lead. He presents a man torn between what he sees and what he believes, with his faith progressively tested the more he investigates the mystery. Risen stays relatively true to biblical events but it is Clavius’ personal journey at the heart of this story, adding another interesting twist.
New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is suitably messianic as Jesus Christ, although the casting continues to raise the same old question of Hollywood’s ongoing reluctance to cast middle eastern actors in biblical roles.
Risen avoids the grant battle sequences of ancient dramas, and the elaborate special effects of parting waters and other theological miracles. The tale is told simply and the pace is neither exciting nor dull, fluctuating comfortably between the two as the action requires.
For those who enjoy discovering or revisiting Christian lore, Risen gives a new, respectful perspective that’s enjoyable and more personal than usual.
Extra features on the Blu-ray and DVD releases include a commentary, deleted scenes, and several ‘making of…’ featurettes
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 7
Risen is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.