By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT’S RISEN ABOUT?
A Roman military tribune is tasked with finding the body of Jesus Christ in order to squash rumors of the Resurrection.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A)
After the dual disappointments of Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, this film is a refreshing reminder of how good biblical movies can be when they’re done right. A near-perfect marriage of Hollywood quality and spiritual sincerity, Risen is the year’s first must-see film. Skillfully directed by Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) and strongly acted (especially by Luther star Joseph Fiennes), it boasts gorgeous production values and a lovely musical score.
Best of all is the smart screenplay that affirms the faith of believers while delivering, for skeptics, a moving story about one man’s quest for peace. The only misstep is in portraying Mary Magdalene as a reformed harlot, a notion based on tradition, not scripture. Still, this is gripping, thought-provoking, gritty, and emotionally raw, with a spiritual subtlety missing from so many religious epics. The film also earns bonus points for casting an actor as Christ who actually looks Hebrew. Risen is not to be missed.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Risen is rated PG-13. It has no foul language, nudity, or sexuality. There is mention of a character being a “woman of the street.” There is one intense battle scene between Hebrews and Romans, with persons killed with stones, arrows, and swords, but it’s mostly bloodless. We see men screaming and whimpering on their crosses (their legs are broken to accelerate death) as well as brief glimpses of decomposing bodies.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
With all the violence and hatred in the world, lasting peace only comes through following Christ's teaching to love your enemies. Seeing is not believing; doubt can only be overcome through faith.
Interested in Risen? Try these underrated Bible films as well!