For nearly half of its running time, Risen is a uniquely fascinating take on the story of Jesus’ resurrection—and then it’s not particularly good at the kind of faith-based drama it’s most aiming for. The central character is Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), tribune and right-hand man to Judea’s Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth). It becomes Clavius’s responsibility to maintain order after the crucifixion of the Nazarene teacher referred to as Yeshua (Cliff Curtis), which includes finding out what happened to Yeshua’s body, which disappears from its tomb. The script by Paul Aiello and director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) proves genuinely intriguing at turning the Resurrection into a political problem, threatening the authority of both the occupying Romans and the Jewish Sanhedrin; it’s a context that makes a message of peace all the more revolutionary. But then the narrative essentially inserts Clavius in the middle of Acts of the Apostles, and neither his character nor the variation on familiar Biblical episodes capture the same sense of discovery. The feel-good conversion is what most of the audience came for, but Clavius is more interesting before he beats his sword into a plowshare.
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