There is a world of difference between potential and reality.
“Risen” tells the tale of a Roman solider (Joseph Fiennes) who is tasked with leading an investigation to find the body of Jesus (Cliff Curtis) after his crucifixion and alleged resurrection. Kevin Reynolds directs.
The premise of “Risen” had a decent amount going for it. No matter what your beliefs, you’ve heard the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the film not only decides to have the main character be a non-believer, but treats the instance like a detective story. But really that is all the film has: a promising premise. There are nuggets of a better movie and moments of true inspiration sprinkled throughout, but all too often “Risen” fails to get off the ground.
Joseph Fiennes plays Clavius, a Roman centurion who (obviously) does not believe Jesus (or Yeshua as he is referred to in the film) is the risen Messiah. Fiennes does an alright job here, although much of the first act is spent mumbling and the second simply staring. He does have a few very well-acted moments where he says more with his eyes than his words. Essentially Fiennes plays a more stoic version of George Clooney’s character from “Hail, Caesar!,” and if you haven’t seen that you should; ironically Fiennes’ brother Ralph is in that film.
Speaking of a small world, Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy is also in this (good to see at least one of the Harry Potter kids getting work) and his character’s name is Lucius, the name of his father in the HP series. Coincidence? I mean, yeah, probably, but still. As far as his acting here goes he doesn’t have much to do but be Clavius’ lapdog but he’s fine in his role.
Like I said, the best thing the film has going for it is its original take on an age old story, but they abandon it all too soon. The investigation to find where the Disciples are hiding Jesus’ body is interesting enough, but it ends about halfway through the film, and we all know that the movie isn’t going to leave anything ambiguous; it sets out with a goal and it meets it. I won’t spoil whether the film has Jesus actually rise from the dead or if it was a hoax [eyeroll], but let’s just say the film pulled its punches and it would have been a lot more interesting if they had presented the audience with clues and let them decide for themselves.
Probably the film’s biggest detractor, however, was its depiction of the Disciples. Almost all of them are constantly giddy and foolish, and while I never met the gang and can’t personally vouch for it, I am willing to bet they weren’t so flamboyant in real life. You can either chalk it up to overacting or bad direction (probably both).
“Risen” isn’t necessarily a *bad* film, but it was made for just $20 million and often it shows. There are a few scenes that may make certain people feel inspiration or a sense of uplift, and the attempt to make something different is to be mildly commended, but this isn’t rec league soccer; you don’t get a trophy just for trying.
Critics Rating: 4/10