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Movie 'Risen' Tells Easter Story From Nonbeliever Roman's Point Of View

Updated on April 10, 2017

Joseph Fiennes Potrays Roman Tribune

Joseph Fiennes...Plays role of Roman tribune ordered to find body of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Fiennes...Plays role of Roman tribune ordered to find body of Jesus Christ.

Movie Is Combination CSI/ Cold Case Investigation

The movie "Risen" is told from the perspective of a Roman soldier who is ordered by Pontius Pilate to find the body of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion. The film is original in that it is the first Easter movie to tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion from a nonbeliever's perspective. While DNA and fingerprints were not available in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, Roman tribune Clavius is able to perform a Sam Spade type investigation and solve the case.

The film is now available on Red Box for those searching for a movie with a fresh approach to this story as Easter approaches in only a few days. Clavius remains set in his ways after a successful 25-year in the powerful Roman military. This movie depicts him as an ambitious man who wants nothing more out of life than to be promoted to a position where he doesn't had to do anymore killing.

In a deeply personal conversation Pilate asks Clavius what his goal in life is, inquiring, "And what then?"

Clavius answers he wants a position in Rome where he can make enough money to marry, retire and live in a luxurious villa in the countryside."

Pilate responds, "And that is all?"

Clavius says, "What else is there?"

Pilate is portrayed as a fairly deep thinker as he says, "Is there nothing more than that? In a short time we'll all be like him." He points to the corpse of a man who has been crucified.


The Dilemma Of Clavius Played By Joseph Fiennes

Joseph Fiennes does an excellent job portraying a man who comes to a crossroads in his career when he realizes Pontius Pilate desperately wants the body of Jesus to be found. An honest man, he proceeds with an objective investigation as he interviews witnesses, demanding to know where the disciples have hidden the body of Jesus. He knows if he doesn't produce a body, his boss will not be happy with him. If Pilate isn't happy, his career will not continue on an upward slant.

Out of desperation, Fiennes at first produces the body of a man who's been crucified. He says to Pilate, "See, there is where he was pierced in the side and where he was pierced in the heart." Pilate remaining skeptical asks, "But what about his face? No one can recognize that face."

"Exactly, no one will know who it is. If you say it's Jesus, they will believe it," responds Fiennes, trying to get himself out of a jam. By this point in the film, Clavius is beginning to realize he may not be able to find the body of Jesus and is grasping at straws.

But Pilate, who is normally portrayed as a wily politician, will not accept this as a solution. From that point forward Clavius pursues only the truth in his investigation.


Jesus Christ Carries Cross Uphill

Jesus Christ forced by Romans to carry own Cross before His Crufixion.
Jesus Christ forced by Romans to carry own Cross before His Crufixion.

Investigation Leads To Disciples

The film takes a major turn when Clavius is ordered to find the disciples and slay all but two of them. When he and his troops arrive at the house, the tribune is stunned by what he sees, and orders his men to withdraw saying, "I will take care of this alone."

Clavius has seen something he never expected to see. The movie does an excellent job of interposing the face of Christ on the Cross and Jesus as he reappears to his disciples. Clavius recognizes it is the same man he saw on the Cross who is now alive. How can this be?

Effective Opening to Movie With Joseph Fiennes

Joseph Fiennes begins the movie stumbling out of the Galilean wilderness covered in dust similar to many Western movies in which John Wayne makes his entrance. Only this isn't a saloon in the Old West into which Wayne makes his appearance. This is 33 A.D. and the weary Clavius is way beyond his investigation.

The man who waits on him asks if he is Roman, and Fiennes, glancing at his dust-covered tunic, says in a tired, confused voice, "Yes, I am Roman."

It's an effective attention grabber because the audience senses Fiennes has been through some traumatic, dramtic adventure which has shaken him to his very core. But what has happened to him? HIs Roman uniform is no longer bright red, nor is his bedraggled face wearing the arrogant expression one normally expects from a proud member of the most powerful empire on earth. The movie then backtracks to the time when Jesus crucifixion is in progress and tells the rest of the story from that vantage point.

Peter Firth As Pilate Believes Clavius Off The Rails

Peter Firth plays a more interesting Pontius Pilate than one usually sees in these Easter movies including "King Of Kings" and others in the long lineage of this genre. He's been provided new, interesting dialogue by Kevin Reynolds which makes his character more complete. When he finds a note from Clavius saying he's going off on his own investigation, Firth is shocked. One of the soldiers accompanying Pilate says, "What if it's true that Jesus is alive?"

Pilate responds resolutely, "Then I will kill him again."

That quote presents a possibility never before seen in Easter movies.

Firth plays the role as a non-idealistic politician who is bent only on retaining his power and accomplishing his blind ambition. His character could fit into Washington D.C. in today's America, as sadly, the truth is not a prized commodity.

Unique Plot For This Easter Film

This is the only Easter movie which follows the earthly biography of Jesus to the end. Not only is his crucifixion shown, but also his resurrection and his ultimate ascencion back into Heaven. Directors and producers before this intriguing movie have all neglected the dramatic moment when the disciples witness Jesus dramatic return to Heaven. To his credit, Reynolds includes the Great Commission when Jesus orders the believers to spread the Word throughout the world.

Clavius And His Roman God Mars

Throughout the movie Clavius, who was raised in the Roman culture, had a smorgasboard of gods to choose from, and he picked only Mars as his god. He repeatedly talks to the statue of his personal god and tosses money at his feet. It is when Clavius sees the resurrected Jesus with the group of Jews, that he abandons Mars. A fact that is hinted at, but not emphasized is transubstantiation. Following his resurrection, Jesus was able to appear and disappear through the walls of the house where the disciples were meeting. Clavius is impressed by this fact as well as Thomas touching the nail scarred hands of Jesus. It is then Clavius posts a note to Pilate that he hasn't been kidnapped or killed by the disciples, and that he's seen Jesus Christ alive since the crucifixion.

Jesus and Clavius Conversation

The director inserts an original conversation between Jesus and Clavius into his film which provides originality. Clavius is bemoaning how difficult it is to make a decision which involves all eternity when Jesus calmly replies, "Think how much more difficult it will be for those who never see me."

The movie remains loyal to the Bible's account of what transpired during these dramatic days, while also adding fictional characters such as Clavius who may or may not have existed. There are other ancient books that exist besides the Bible which don't contradict it, but do provide additional information.

No Condemnation For Nonbelievers

Because this movie is told from a nonbeliever's perspective, it has been more sympathetically received by people who haven't yet made up their minds as to their beliefs. From a practical standpoint, this movie should be more widely received because of that fact alone. People who are nonbelievers who've seen the movie have said they like the fact they "don't feel preached at" by this innovative approach.

Reynolds is the first director ever to make a movie about Easter from the standpoint of a nonbeliever and a Roman tribune. This movie is well worth seeing by those who haven't yet decided how they feel about Christ and the story of His resurrection.

While almost everyone concedes Jesus existed as a historical figure, many have doubts as to whether he rose from the dead and returned to Heaven. For people who fall into that category this is definitely a must see movie.

Jesus Christ Shown Making Ultimate Sacrifice

Crucifixion of Jesus Christ shown on Cross in picture of painting.
Crucifixion of Jesus Christ shown on Cross in picture of painting. | Source

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