Release Date: February 19, 2016
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Writer: Kevin Reynolds, Paul Aiello
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, Cliff Curtis, Maria Botto, Luis Callejo, Antonio Gil, Richard Atwill, Stewart Scudamore, Andy Gathergood, Stephen Hagan, Mish Boyko, Jan Cornet, Joe Manjon, Pepe Lorente, Stavros Demetraki, Selva Rasalingam, Manu Fullola, Mario Tardon, Stephen Greif, Alex Maruny, Paco Manzanedo, Tomas Pozzi, Karim Saleh, Jacob Yakob, John Mula, Yuric Allison
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 107 minutes
Production Company: LD Entertainment, Affirm Films, Columbia Pictures, Patrick Aiello Productions
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Given the material, I couldn’t think of a better title for the film. It fits so well, and speaks volumes to the biblical story director Kevin Reynolds was trying to tell. Another film of his is The Count of Monte Cristo, which is one of my favorite stories of all time, so I was even more intrigued with his take on the resurrection of Christ. The last few times a large budgeted biblical story hit theaters, it didn’t turn out that great critically or commercially. Those films were either white-washed, or a complete abandonment of the believed true story. It’s as if the studio didn’t have faith in the material they were working with. Though now we have a craftsman, with a lower budget, who keeps the story small, contained, and well thought out, delivering a feel good film that focuses on the perspective of a non-believer, and reminds you about the power of love.
As I mentioned before, I was pleased with the director going in, but honestly still had my reservations. For such a powerful story, I was worried this would be another abomination, or come off as another cheap TV movie. Not that the latter isn’t worthy of storytelling, but I was hoping for a fair representation of the times. The initial few minutes took a while to find its footing in an uphill battle between opposing groups, but the character Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) set the necessary tone engaging you with his presence. His role was most important, and was my favorite portion of the film. His acting was top notch, and it’s an understatement to say I was convinced. He was a strong commander, a respected man, but also torn by the decisions he had to make. He followed orders, but it was obvious he knew something was wrong deep down inside. As if he knew his actions were going against a natural flow of life, and had no explanation to make sense of it all. The portrayal of Jesus Christ/Yeshua (Chris Curtis) got better as the film progressed. For such a role the introduction to the character was distracting. I would’ve preferred a non-known actor, but over time he displayed the character just as I imagined it should be.
Another positive aspect were the multiple tones the film provided throughout the runtime. In the beginning the focus stayed on Clavius as the horrific crucifixion took place. It highlighted on how much Yeshua’s presence meant to the people of the Roman Empire, and his followers. How they interpreted his being, how they thought he was a threat, and wanted to maintain power over the people. Even when his intentions were crystal clear, you saw the jealously, and blind hatred from him being so loved, which presented their misguided thought process as they planned to pursue. The story then shifted towards a police like investigation as Clavius goes hunting for the missing body from the tomb. Interrogation of the townspeople then issued, and shortly after turns into an adventure across the land. With all these interesting transitions, there was never a dull moment. My eyes were wide open smiling at what’s to come.
Something that will most likely get over shadowed is the authenticity of the film. Besides the first few minutes, the entire scope was something to be proud of. This didn’t feel like a set on a soundstage or an artificial town created just for destruction (Thor). It all felt as real as if I were there. The costumes were bruised and worn, and not brand new or appealing. When the wind kicked up dust and sand, you could tell. The actor’s faces, and body showed how rough the terrain was. To the weapons the soldiers had, their armor, the cross, and the many homes, it all appeared as if it belonged. The wardrobe department did a phenomenal job, and deserves a ton of recognition for their contribution.
I loved the portrayal of Clavius with the story focusing on his perspective. With him and the disciples who followed Jesus, their reaction to their Lord and savior was priceless. It’s the feel good moment that I spoke of earlier. Whether you’re a believer or not, it was wonderful to see such joy from the cast as they witnessed miracles based on their faith. Even when one character didn’t believe initially, he was star struck later on, when certain events had no scientific explanation. The Child-like innocence in the performance was warm and soothing, and is another reason why I enjoyed the film. For such a small budget I hope a number of films of such stature will leap into production. It’s a small risk, and teaches you about the word of God, without trying to force it down your throat, and doesn’t condemn those who might be doubtful.