At one point in Risen, the viewer is watching a group of Roman soldiers butcher Nazarene. During this, Clavius is informed that the blood of Christ will cleanse the land, essentially wiping Rome off the map. The informant receives the business end of the schort sword in his body.
The Case for Christ
Clavius is sent out by Pontius Pilate to investigate a religious leader. In the process, you get to see that there is a standard battle scene in the first act of the film. This altercation is a poorly realized ordeal and the scope doesn’t work against the background of the investigation. It just doesn’t fit. They could have had a better opener than a poorly realized piece.
After, you see the death of Christ. He’s on the cross, “It is finished.” Clavius is trying to be respectful, he doesn’t want to treat the corpse with any disrespect. The viewer is exposed to him with all due diligence, and sees that he takes his position rather seriously. The first act ends, and Pontius’s man is trying to be impartial to the events going on around him.
The pleasant part of this movie, is that there’s an actual budget behind it. It looks better than Exodus: Gods and Kings and Noah, both of which had directors that phoned in their roles (Ridley Scott, shame on you). In 2016, Hollywood is flooded with Christian-oriented films and those that are taking modern settings with regular men and women, they’re cleaning up. This is a film that takes more of the “Ten Commandments” approach, and comes at you in a low-key sort of way. It’s a great-looking movie, the costumes and set location is spot on.
The sound of the actors doing their jobs, this is where the movie fell out of sync with my expectations. The actors sound like there are British. With the exception of Maria Botto, the rest of the cast sounds like it’s waiting for 4PM.
The second act is Clavius getting close to the disciples. His mentality at first is that of a non-believer, he’s only here to follow the Nazarene and investigate the legends that this corpse will reanimate. He does a good job of conveying his initial convictions, but with the evolution of the film, it feels that his change of heart is forced. The movie by the half-way point has jumped on the train where it is obviously a Christian-favoring film.
By the end of the film, he’s sold himself into the masses, wanting to believe. Clavius has been exposed to a lot, and at times the movie drags and feels longer than the 118 minutes that it runs. The third act is somewhat forced-feeling, some of the minor performances do not sell well.
That said, this is a pleasant movie, but it is clearly a film, and not a story. It suffers in it’s casting and preparation, but where it shines is it’s approach and in it’s visual appeal. If you’re looking for something to munch popcorn, this movie fits the bill nicely.