The movie Risen started playing in theaters on Friday. Yesterday, our church went to go watch it. After a day of thinking about it, I decided I would write a few words about the movie.
I will say this, you should definitely go watch it. I enjoyed the story. I was telling my wife, I am surprised that no one has ever made (to my knowledge) a movie with this as its primary story arc.
For those who may not know, the story follows a Roman Tribune named Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes, as he searches for the body of the crucified Jesus. It is really that simple. As he searches for the body of Jesus, he is confronted with the possibility and eventual reality that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
After talking to a couple of people after the movie, there are three aspects of the movie that stood out. Now, I know that, for some people, these may actually be considered as “negatives,” however, for me they are what made the movie work.
The Point of View
There are several times throughout the movie where you find yourself thinking, “That is just silly.” The main reason for this is that the perspective is that of a Roman, polytheistic, career soldier. The movie is told from the point of view of Clavius. Therefore, you are witnessing his skepticism, his disbelief, and his surprise at the behavior and claims of the followers of Jesus.
There are a couple of times when you agree with Clavius that the disciples and all who believe the resurrection has happened are in fact out of their minds. They are crazy and look and sound the part. It is almost comical at points because you share the disbelief of Clavius. This is very well done, and if you don’t understand that the movie is from his point of view, you will miss the transformation that takes place.
This point of view is important. The movie is not preachy, and it is not evangelistic because of this. You are seeing the world after the crucifixion and resurrection through the eyes and experiences of an unbeliever.
It is best to describe the pacing as steady. However, this does not mean the movie is slow. It is deliberate. Because we are seeing the events unfold through the eyes of a soldier, there is urgency but no hurry. Clavius is a professional and goes about his duties in an organized and orderly way.
You see this as Clavius investigates what has happened and interrogates all of the principle players in the events. Clavius does not take anything for granted. He has a job to do and he will do it right because he has his own aspirations that could be jeopordized if he fails.
This even rhythm throughout the movie keeps you in the moment. You are mulling over and considered the evidence right along with Clavius. You are right there with Clavius as he tries to make sense of what he is discovering. In spite of the pacing, the movie, and the story, move rather quickly as the search intensifies and we get closer to the conclusion that the unimaginable and preposterous has, in fact, happened.
As I left the theater, the one thought that stood out to me was how remarkably ordinary the movie was. By this I mean that there was nothing sensational in the movie. It was not about the flashy miracles or any over the top display of divine intervention. The move is about one man’s journey.
Because of this, as a viewer, I was left struggling with the same question Jesus left with Clavius (which I paraphrase): “If you, having seen me, have a difficult time believing, imagine all those who have not/will not see and will believe?”
This struggle, between believing what is inescapable or refusing the irrefutable, is wonderfully dramatized in the movie. Risen is a well told story and one you can enjoy watching more than once.