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Review: ‘Risen’ is a mystery set in Biblical times

It’s long been my opinion that many faith-based films fail to connect with non-believing masses because of poor production values or overbearingly preachy scripts. “Risen” is a movie that could change that.

That’s because “Risen” doesn’t feel preachy and benefits from a clever script, solid acting, and good production value. It’s a movie both Christians and non-Christians can actually enjoy watching because it seems intentionally produced to appeal to both.

The movie focuses on a Roman centurion named Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), who commands troops in Judaea under Pontus Pilate’s govern. Pilate is annoyed by the emergence of Christians whose Nazarene leader is believed to be the Messiah. We first meet Clavius on a battlefield, where he and his troops are brutally slaying Jewish insurgents.  He returns from battle, tired and sore, only to be immediately sent to oversee the crucifixion of the Nazarene, Yeshua. Pilate, however, also orders him to have Yeshua’s body guarded due to the prophecy the man will be resurrected in three days. Clavius stations two guards and seals the tomb, only to find his guards and the Nazarene’s body missing three days later.  This sets off a hunt to find the Nazarene’s body in order to prove he’s only a man and not a Messiah.

Filled with bloody sword fights reminiscent of gladiator films, “Risen” is also rich in suspense as Clavius, a non-believer, uses detective skills to investigate the disappearance of the body. Like any good detective tale, the story looks at all of the possibilities as it leads to its climax. Did Jesus’s followers steal the body to fulfill the prophecy? Or, inexplicably, did Jesus actually resurrect on the third day?

The script is a mix of Biblical retelling and fiction that manages to work well together in order to place the audience in the shoes of a loyal soldier who worships multiple gods and who finds Christ’s disciples both laughable and intriguing.

Families looking to bring along children should be warned there are some disturbing scenes, including the crucifixion and violent sword battles.

When all is said and done, “Risen” succeeds as an entertaining movie, whether you’re a Christian or not.

“Risen” is rated PG-13 for Biblical violence, including some disturbing images. It’s now playing in theaters nationwide.