Raising the Bar
I have a hard time with religious movies…often.
They seem to encourage a black and white thinking that our culture traffics in to our great detriment. Not many treat our tradition with a sophistication I recognize from 40 years around believers. Mostly religious movies seem aimed at adolescents. (That may be true of 90% of movies in theaters now that I think of it…)
Christian movies as of late also relish a victim mentality with mostly phony persecutors at hand so we can feel the self-righteous underdogs (in spite of being the most privileged people in history). None of it does our brand any good.
I recommend Risen because it is a little better than most in doing what it has to do historically: it is hard to make a compelling tale out of such a familiar story when your audience (Christians; this movie mostly preaches to the choir) demands a fairly literal and limiting fealty. This story does proceed pretty predictably.
But there are also a number of artistic and compelling scenes here from crucifixion through to the Ascension. The director has dared leave in some ambiguity where sentimentality and obviousness typically reside. We are invited in to what some have referred to as CSI: Jerusalem.
Risen does better than most theologically in creating some great conversations with the Risen Jesus and his disciples. Relationships between the lost disciples and the Roman officical (played with great impact by Jospeph Fiennes ) at the heart of it all brings a vital human scale and feeling to our Cosmic Centerpiece. This is a decent addition to the growing collection of cinematic tellings of the story of Jesus.