Risen, film review: ‘Gritty, realistic take on the Bible’s Easter story’

Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) leads his Roman soldiers during the zealot battle in Risen. Picture: Rosie

Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) leads his Roman soldiers during the zealot battle in Risen. Picture: Rosie Collins - Credit: Archant

One of the best things about movies these days is that they are a lot less violent than they used to be.

The levels of mayhem and dismemberment dished out by Arnie and Sly in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the name of mainstream entertainment just doesn’t wash these days.

Even horror and Jesus movies rarely get an 18 certificate now.

Risen is an attempt to reclaim the Easter story from the rabid, S&M excesses of The Passion Of The Christ, and make the story of history’s most famous execution nice and uplifting again.

Its general approach is to make the story more gritty and realistic, less fantastical, and to come at it from a sideways angle: that of a Roman tribune Clavius (Fiennes) charged with overseeing the end of the crucifixion and then sorting out the mystery of where the body has gone by a desperate Pilate (Firth).


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When the body does disappear, Clavius turns detective trying to find the missing Messiah and quell the unrest.

For most of the story he is the man who turns up after the event, who is off somewhere else when some major biblical event is occurring.

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It’s a modest enterprise but done well and believably. It has some of the silliness associated with biblical epics.

The dialogue flips between Roman formalities and modern colloquialism.

“I am yet sticky with filth,” Fiennes complains when he returns from battle and is immediately summoned to see Pilate.

Fiennes Minor is very impressive in the lead role.

Now in his mid-40s, he has gained a heft to his screen presence and really looks like he could’ve been a star of some ‘50s epic like Ben Hur.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

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