Risen the movie: You'll be glad you watched this!
Having dipped a toe in the water with recent faith-based movies like Soul Surfer and War Room, Hollywood has now gone the whole nine yards with Risen – an epic in the Ben Hur mould with Joseph Fiennes in the lead role.
Magnificently cast, acted, filmed and produced, Risen traces the days following Jesus' crucifixion from the perspective of a Roman soldier tasked to "find the body or else" and struggling with the evidence that confronts him. And, unlike the way Noah and Exodus rewrote the Bible's narrative, this film sticks closely to it.
Which means, if you want to encourage movie moguls to produce more of the same, you need to cast your vote by watching it - released on March 18 it is still in Ipswich cinemas until Good Friday – and taking others with you.
You'll be glad you did. For those over-familiar with the resurrection events there are moments of surprising freshness and insight. While, for the not yet persuaded there is much to ponder. However, you will leave wishing it had been cut by fifteen minutes or so. The bewildered disciples' four day journey from Jerusalem to Galilee, for example, seems to take a month of Sabbaths.
For me, I'd have liked the title to have had a question mark – Risen? – and the script to have been more enquiring rather than all nailed down. However, the investigating soldier 'gets it' and Jesus metaphorically rides into the sunset quoting the last words of Mathew's Gospel – with no indication, as Mathew also records, that at that moment "some doubted". But the main audience will be in America and, when it comes to keeping the Bible Belt happy, art is always likely to be trumped by propaganda.
And those conservatives will be more than happy – especially when the only time the Bible gets messed with is to allow Peter to be fully clothed wading to Jesus on the shore for breakfast, when the text says he was in the buff. I'd seen it coming though. Pontius Pilot in the Roman bathhouse was sensibly dressed in a set of AD33 boxer shorts.
However, see it you should. Risen is more than a brave and epic movie; there is a little of something for everyone here. And, however much you like it, you'll know there's a Southern Baptist out there who'll like it even more.
Discussion resources based on the film are available here
Review by Peter Meadows, a communications consultant.