RISEN Review

Overall Rating

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Leans strongly toward a biblical worldview


Ranking Categories:
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance 5.0stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships 4.5stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations 4.5stars.png
Family Viewing Suitability 3.5stars.png
Entertainment Value 4.5stars.png
view our criteria

Summary

Just in time for Easter, RISEN offers moviegoers a fast-paced, well-executed and thought-provoking examination of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus through the eyes of a high-ranking Roman soldier. Opening in theaters nationwide on February 19th, RISEN asks the hard questions and skillfully moves from the head to the heart in ways that will resonate with skeptics and believers alike.   

Produced by Affirm Films and distributed by Sony/Columbia Pictures, RISEN boasts an excellent screenplay by Kevin Reynolds (“Hatfields & McCoys,” THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO) and Paul Aiello—with Reynolds also serving as the film’s director. It features impressive sets and cinematography as well as a strong cast including Joseph Fiennes (HERCULES, LUTHER) as Clavius, Peter Firth (MI-5,AMISTAD) as Pontius Pilate, Tom Felton (BELLE, HARRY POTTER) as Lucius, Maria Botto (“Mad Dogs”) as Mary Magdalene, and Cliff Curtis (LAST KNIGHTS, THE PIANO) as Yeshua (Jesus).      


Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance

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While much of the story line in RISEN is extra-biblical, it is nevertheless plausible and holds close to the biblical narrative in a creative and engaging way.  Moviegoers will relate on a personal level to the important philosophical questions about hope, purpose and worldview that are raised by several deep conversations between Clavius and Pilate—and they will be similarly challenged to come to their own conclusion about who Jesus was and is.    

In this sense, RISEN is a like a “who dunnit?” crime detective story in which Clavius plays the role of an investigator seeking the truth about what really happened to Jesus following His crucifixion. Even though he’s a non-believer, Clavius is committed to following the truth wherever it leads him—something all humans are called to do as well.    

In today’s postmodern culture characterized by skepticism, RISEN is a fresh and timely look at the biblical claims about Jesus.  The story is framed and advanced in ways that effectively respond to the doubts that non-believers have raised over the centuries to the narrative Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension—the most important event in human history. 

       


Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships

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From Jesus and His followers to the Roman occupiers and Jewish leaders of the day, RISEN presents a largely faith-compatible depiction of characters throughout. In a nice touch, Jesus is referred to by His Hebrew name, Yeshua, and his disciples are very loving and appealing—ultimately softening Clavius’ heart as he seeks to carry out his mission from Pilate to find Jesus’ body.

Here, as Clavius interrogates the disciples, each joyfully testifies as to WHO Jesus is—and points to His teachings centered in love.  They do not fear persecution or martyrdom and one tells Clavius, “If you knew Him, you would understand.” Their worldview is so radically different that they seem to speak in riddles and encourage Clavius to look into his heart in order to find this Jesus he is searching for.  

And although Mary Magdalene is depicted as being “of the street”—a popular, but not necessarily biblical understanding—she ultimately leads Clavius to the room where the disciples are hiding, allowing Clavius to see for himself the risen Yeshua.  


Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations

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Although the RISEN story line picks up as the crucifixion of Jesus is winding down, the writers artfully weave miracles and other biblical events into the depiction of many scenes in ways that tell the fuller story of His life—and clearly point to His divinity. And from the opening scene in the Judean wilderness in which the stage is set, RISEN comes full-circle showing Clavius stepping out into a new life after being forever changed by his encounter with the risen Yeshua. 

Along the way, the historical and biblical context of Pilate working closely with Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders to quell unruly Jewish uprisings in this far-flung Roman province is front and center. There is a Masada-type battle scene with bloody hand-to-hand combat and the Jews are shown anxiously awaiting a prophesied messiah who they think will politically deliver them from Rome’s brutal rule.

While there are many scenes in RISEN that are not found in the Bible, each nevertheless moves the story forward as Clavius tries to make sense of what has happened to Jesus’ body. When he learns that many now claim to have seen the crucified Jesus alive, the stakes are raised and Clavius begins to pursue the truth—at great risk to himself personally and professionally. In one beautiful scene, Clavius witnesses the doubting disciple Thomas as he encounters the risen Yeshua—with holes in his hands, feet and side. And in another moving scene, Clavius opens up to Jesus and discovers that Jesus already knows the deepest yearnings of Clavius’ heart. 


Family Viewing Suitability

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At 107 minutes in length, RISEN is rated PG-13 for biblical violence including some disturbing images.  Here, events associated with Jesus’ crucifixion may be difficult for both children and adults to see. Interestingly, the place of the crucifixion—Golgotha—is depicted in unusually narrow confines and the moment when the three crosses are brought down is jarring on multiple levels. 

Beyond this, there are scenes involving conversations between Clavius and Pilate in a hot-water spa featuring upper male nudity, including the suggestion of the pleasure of female company and a massage after a difficult day on the battlefield that some viewers may find unsuitable for children. 

On a positive note, Roman soldiers are humanized and shown to struggle with the brutality of their jobs and Clavius relents on breaking Jesus’ legs when he sees Mary crying—deciding to spear him instead as he unwittingly fulfills the biblical prophecy that none of the Messiah’s bones would be broken.


Entertainment Value

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RISEN is a fast-paced, powerful movie with many stirring and realistic scenes that encourage viewers to examine the biblical truth claims about Jesus and His resurrection. The production values are high, the script is well-written and engaging, the direction is solid, and the cast uniformly strong. 

Although not directly biblical, RISEN offers a contextually accurate, real-world journey that reminds us that even the most unlikely person can be drawn to—and forever changed by—Jesus.  Because of this, RISEN is an excellent movie to share with non-believing friends and family members.  It poses tough questions that critics of the crucifixion have asked over the ages in ways that are fair and believable—all without being preachy.


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