With smaller films I generally like to go in blind. Know nothing or as little as possible and go in with a clean slate. Generally, this makes for a wonderful experience with no expectations. For Risen all I had was a title and a poster with a bad ass looking Roman soldier. Looks like a bit of sword and sandals fun? Far from it!
Turns out Risen is a biblical film set just after the death of Christ. Okay, that makes the title a little more relevant. I’m not religious in the least, but hey, you don’t always have to be the target audience to enjoy a film.
It starts interestingly enough. We meet Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, a Roman centurion tasked with keeping the peace amongst the imminent uprising in Jerusalem. Following the crucifixion of christ he and his aide Lucius (hey, it’s Draco Malfoy!) are charged with investigating the claims he has risen from the dead and find those you perpetrated the apparent hoax before it incites the people.
You know what, that’s a pretty interesting concept. I really enjoyed the investigation and paranoia. Risen seemed like it was ready to walk the fine line between those of who who don’t believe and those that do. Leaving us to make our own decision and point of view.
About half way through the film takes a very abrupt turn and goes full Sunday School Special. There’s no middle road anymore when you look Jesus in the face. It suddenly drops into religious cliche and loses any hook the starting concept had. It gets downright laughable by the climax.
Look, as I said before, I know a young atheist like me isn’t the target audience here and I do know there is an audience for a religious bible film. A huge one. I have nothing against those who do believe. More power to you. It’s just not for me. I’ve enjoyed films of this ilk before many times. Problem is it’s just not a good film.
Acting-wise it has little to write home about. Same for direction and cinematography. In fact, the whole production is very TV quality. It’s very apparent on the big screen. Pacing wise Risen falls of a cliff once we reach the point of full-Jesus. It crawls. A real watch-checker of a film.
There’s a place for films you randomly come across on TV or Netflix and pay 5% attention to as you do other things. Then there’s movies like that where you also wander off and continue living your life half way through. This is the later.