Risen picks up where Mel Gibson’s Jesus hit, The Passion of the Christ left off. Where The Passion of the Christ finished with Jesus’ resurrection, Kevin Reynolds’ (who hasn’t directed a feature since Tristan + Isolde ten-years ago!) presents, not so much a sequel, but perhaps a spiritual successor to Gibson’s film.
Naturally, given the story, the torture porn of The Passion is mostly absent here and in its place is a fictionalised account of a Roman Tribune, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), and his efforts to locate Jesus’ (Cliff Curtis – makes sense) resurrected personage before he once again inspires Judaeans to reject the good, wholesome Roman way of life endorsed by Prefect Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth).
On the strength of the trailer, Risen looked to be an interesting study on the juxtaposition of faith and reason. Clavius, an unbeliever of all things messianic, has his thoroughly reasonable belief in Roman polytheism shaken as he fails to locate the corpse of the crucified cult figure.
Sadly, the film proves to be unchallenging in almost every respect, preferring to simply follow the established biblical narrative rather than engage in any kind of philosophical discussion. As a result, the film preaches to the converted whilst alienating any atheists (like me) who happen to stumble into the cinema expecting a jolly good piece of sword ‘n’ sandalled existentialist entertainment.
In pure cinematic terms, the film is structurally flawed. From the outset it appears that the film is about Clavius’ search for evidence of Jesus’ demise. Yet when this plot is resolved, the film meanders for a good deal more for the seemingly express purpose of satisfying its target Christian audience and completing Jesus’ scriptural journey towards ascension.
Like The Passion of the Christ before it, Risen is one for the believers only.