Christ tale ‘Risen’ comfort food for believers
“Risen” takes on the story of the resurrection like a police procedural. Joseph Fiennes plays Clavius, an officer in the Roman military tasked to find out why Jesus’ tomb has gone empty. Think of it as “CSI: Nazareth,” and Clavius as your David Caruso. All that’s missing is a pair of sunglasses and a theme song by the Who.
He tracks down witnesses, kicks down doors (there is never, ever any knocking) and conducts interviews with Christ’s followers, all at the orders of Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth), who is looking to quell an uprising among the people.
Clavius is stern, smart and determined to find answers, and for its first half or so, “Risen” is a compelling, competent take on the familiar story. But once Clavius finally lays his eyes on Cliff Curtis’ Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus), he and the movie become quivering piles of mush.
Director Kevin Reynolds (“Waterworld”), who co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Aiello, pivots in the movie’s second half and has Clavius join a team of Christ’s followers on a mission into the desert. He’s a reluctant believer but is converted when he sees Yeshua fix a man’s deeply mangled face and fill a net with fish, miracles he pulls off with the confidence and swagger of a table magician.
Yeshua is bathed in adoring light and his smile beams with the light of 1,000 burning suns. No wonder Clavius is so enamored by him. The turnabout renders the first half of the film something of a fake out, but “Risen” was never meant as anything but a tool for the converted. Talk about preaching to the choir.
Rated PG-13: for Biblical violence including some disturbing images
Running time: 107 minutes