DIR: Kevin Reynolds • WRI: Kevin Reynolds, Paul Aiello • PRO: Patrick Aiello, Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon • DOP: Lorenzo Senatore • ED: Steve Mirkovich • DES: Stefano Maria Ortolani • MUS: Roque Baños • CAST: Tom Felton, Joseph Fiennes, Cliff Curtis

I’m not entirely sure what possessed Joseph Fiennes to headline this mediocre epic… perhaps he was lured by the promise of a sort of biblical Mythbusters-style retelling of the crucifixion.  It certainly begins that way, with Fiennes’ Clavius returning on Pilate’s command (Peter Firth) from pacifying a Zealot uprising led by Barabbas to quell a new type of revolution.  Pilate has crucified Yesuah, (New Zealander Cliff Curtis), as he has created a following among the common people who claim him as their Messiah, and wants Clavius to oversee his death and disperse his supporters.  Clavius is given a new partner (or whatever the Roman legionary equivalent is) for the task at hand, and he reluctantly brings Lucius (Tom Felton – back with a Harry Potter name) along to assess this threat to the Roman Empire.

Yesuah and his followers have claimed that should he die upon the cross, he will rise again in three days.  Both Pilate and the faithless elders of Jerusalem want to ensure otherwise – or, at the very least, prevent devotees from stealing his body from the tomb and claiming a resurrection.  Clavius sets men to guard the tomb, as well as sealing the body inside with a huge stone bound with thick ropes.  Come dawn, the body is gone… and here begins the promise of an alternative story of the resurrection.

It seems as though Clavius, a logical man with the eye of a cop drama detective, will find rational explanations for apparent miracles, and provide an unconventional telling of a story we have heard a thousand times.  He swaps detective-sounding quips with Lucius while he grimaces, and drinks from a ceramic mug as though it’s coffee from styrofoam in The Bill.  Instead of running with this interesting angle while he searches for Yesuah’s disciples and the stolen body the story heads straight to lore, and he finds the risen Yesuah as hale and hearty as ever.  It’s as unambiguous as that, and he immediately begins to follow Yesuah’s disciples with a view to getting closer to this enigmatic – and miraculous – man.  From here, the film becomes less about questioning faith and belief, and more a paint-by-numbers retelling of the Easter story.

Coming from a man who gave us Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld, (Kevin Reynolds), it’s no surprise that Risen is a mildly irritating yet sometimes entertaining sprawling epic.  The levity gives an almost buddy-cop feel to the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’, and it’s almost an interesting take on the tale – seeing the resurrection through the eyes of an unbeliever whose job it is to smother threats to a massive Empire.  It never quite knows what it’s trying to do, though, and ends up dwelling on piecemeal moments of Fiennes’ fine acting and facial expressions.  The film really hinges very much on whether – like me – you enjoy these old-style biblical tales that emphasise passionate speeches, theatrical costumes and pageantry.  There’s nothing terribly wrong with Risen, and I’d happily watch it on television some lazy Sunday afternoon, but there’s just not enough here to keep it from being, ultimately, a pretty forgettable movie.

Sarah Griffin

107 minutes

12A (See IFCO for details)

Risen is released 18th March 2016

Risen – Official Website


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