A Pious Procedural: Our Review of ‘Risen’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 19, 2016
A Pious Procedural: Our Review of ‘Risen’

It’s one of the most famous stories in human history, but we really never talk about what happened after it all went down.

While it would be easy to dismiss Risen as just another ‘faith based movie’ but it manages to be a little more entertaining then it probably should be as it successfully turns the later chapters of the life and times of Jesus into an effective crime procedural that doesn’t hit us over the head with any faith based matters.

It’s the epic Biblical tale of the Resurrection, but as told through the eyes of a non-believer; a Roman military tribune named Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) as he is tasked with the job to find out what happened to Jesus in the weeks following his crucifixion and disprove the growing rumors in Jerusalem that he actually is the risen Messiah.

Risen actually works because it really doesn’t shy away from the blood and brutality of the time and it never goes overboard trying to make you believe one thing or another and if anything it is a film that is about the strength and courage that it takes to be able to actually change anyone’s mind, especially your own.

Co-Writer and Director Kevin Reynolds of Waterworld is certainly a serviceable hand at telling a story and while it sets it all up reasonably well, you won’t be able to avoid seeing some of the classic crime procedural tropes and clunky set ups unfold while people are wearing robes; it still plays out pretty well.  Even towards the end of the film when it is actively trying to make us believe that Yeshua (played by Cliff Curtis) is the messiah, it still allows for doubt as our leading character knows what he’s born witness too, but is still having trouble processing it.  Reynolds never shies away from the violence of the time and makes it feel like your standard swords and sandals movie, keeping any obvious religious motivation to the back ground.


Joseph Fiennes is a compelling enough leading man as his tired Roman career officer is looking for anything to hang on to before he earns his right to go home.  The rest of the ensemble simply play it all to type with not a lot of character development, even though Tom Felton is managing to find his wheelhouse playing a smarmy young solider looking to advance in the Roman ranks.

It certainly isn’t the type of movie that you need to rush to, but Risen serves as an interesting theological introduction to these events and packages it in a way that allows audiences to be intellectual with it rather than overly emotional with all.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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