I’ve urged people to give faith-based films a chance despite whatever their beliefs are. Based on recent flicks I’ve seen, the sub-genre is opening up much more. Risen, the best work released by Sony’s subsidiary label Affirm Films, furthers my point.
Beginning with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Risen centres itself around the resurrection from the eyes of an adversary. Roman tribune Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes) is put in charge of solving the disappearance of the fugitive (played by a transfixing Cliff Curtis). Clavius is given a partner (Lucius played by Harry Potter’s Tom Felton), and together they assemble a case study by listening to stories from fellow military soldiers and the alleged disciples.
The character driven work in Kevin Reynolds’ film is what separates Risen from the preachy fare general audiences may be expecting it to be. Fiennes, in this year’s first stellar performance, plays a character who is devoted to his duties, but gradually realizes the Nazarene he’s searching for is part of something much bigger. As Clavius uncovers more about the messiah, he’s able to separate himself from his team, but also remain on guard. It’s a great dynamic that has movie goers glued during the Roman’s tracking, which eventually leads him to Judea. Even after the journey, Clavius’ realizations are vague enough for viewers to draw their own opinions about Clavius’ future. Fiennes finds that perfect balance between empathy for others and career persistence, and the lack of a religious agenda in the thoughtful screenplay (written by Paul Aiello and Reynolds) makes the film resonate will all audiences.
Risen’s production is impressive through its period design, cinematography and score; all of which effortlessly captures the film’s epic qualities. Filmmaker Kevin Reynolds is also able to face gritty details of this biblical story, but cut around gruesome visuals. Stingy movie goers who found The Passion of the Christ to be “a bit much” will appreciate that.
Risen contains the qualities of an excellent film which will be remembered all year long.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie