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Movie Monday: Risen

Monday, February 15, 2016


Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Genre: historical, mystery
Running time: 107 minutes
Released: 2016
Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Risen follows the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

Risen is a powerfully moving story about what the disciples' journey would have looked like through the eyes of a Roman centaurion (and non-believer) following the resurrection of Jesus.

The film opens with Clavius leading Roman soldiers against rebel forces, Jews who profess one true God. This scene is significant for two reasons. It clearly portrays Clavius as a nonbeliever and warrior (one guess as to which Greek God he worships). It also gives insight into some of the Roman fighting tactics. I enjoyed seeing the measures that Clavius took to fight against a force that had taken the higher ground. Later in the film, we also learn some of the finer details of how crucifixion works.

Following his return from battle, Clavius learns about Jesus from Pilate. As Pilate's right-hand man, Clavius goes to ensure the death of Jesus, seal the body, and track down Jesus when the body goes missing (with the primary suspects being the disciples who gain to benefit all with Jesus's resurrection). As he tracks down the disciples, Clavius finds his life getting more deeply entangled with those of Jesus and the disciples and more estranged from his Roman counterparts. In fact, after he makes a life changing decision to abandon his former life, Pilate orders Clavius's successor (Lucius) to track him down. I wasn't quite sure what to make of Pilate being made into an antagonistic figure, but one of my roommates said that Pilate's actions make sense. Given his position, Pilate's first concern would have been the order of the state, which is what we see in the film. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

There are a couple of scenes in particular that I found compelling. First is the scene where Clavius tells Lucius, "There are no enemies here" just as Jesus told Clavius when he stumbles upon the disbelieving Thomas scene. This is especially powerful in that it shows the change that has been worked in Clavius's heart. He is still on a journey in search of answers, but he is beginning to view himself as a friend to the disciples. Second is when Peter tells Clavius that he had it easy; it'll be harder for those who haven't seen Jesus themselves to believe. This speaks indirectly to our current society as we have the challenge of believing without having seen Jesus.

Overall, Risen has found a good balance between the historical drama and faith portions. I enjoyed watching this film immensely and highly recommend it, especially to those who enjoy historical films and those who enjoy faith films.

Thoughts? Is this a film that you would go out to see?

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