A smart look at the ori­gins of faith

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MOVIES - By Rick Bent­ley Fresno Bee

“Risen” is more “The Last Temp­ta­tion of Christ” than “The Great­est Story Ever Told.” It’s a film that comes wrapped in the the­o­log­i­cal teach­ings of the Bi­ble but is re­ally a pro­ce­dural drama that looks to fill in the gaps left be­tween the cru­ci­fix­ion and the as­cen­sion.

This blend will be jar­ring to those who be­lieve in the strict nar­ra­tive of the Bi­ble. And those who love the log­i­cal rea­son­ing of a pro­ce­dural crime drama will have to deal with re­li­gion scat­tered through the tale. Any­one who can ap­pre­ci­ate both will find that “Risen” isn’t heav­enly, but it is a smart look at the ori­gins of per­sonal faith.

“Risen” be­gins with the cru­ci­fix­ion of Yeshua (Cliff Cur­tis) un­der the di­rec­tion of Clav­ius (Joseph Fi­ennes), a non­be­liever who is a pow­er­ful Ro­man mil­i­tary of­fi­cer. His work un­der Pi­late (Peter Firth) has put Clav­ius in line for power and wealth.

That rise by Clav­ius is cur­tailed when the body of Yeshua dis­ap­pears from a guarded and sealed tomb. Pi­late sends Clav­ius on a mis­sion to

dis­cover the truth be­hind the dis­ap­pear­ance as a way of killing any talk that it was a mir­a­cle res­ur­rec­tion.

“Risen” bogs down as Clav­ius sifts through clues and in­ter­ro­gates wit­nesses. It’s a prim­i­tive form of in­ves­ti­ga­tion that moves slowly. The only in­ter­est­ing mo­ment is when Clav­ius talks with Mary Mag­da­lene (Maria Botto). It’s at that mo­ment that Clav­ius be­gins to sus­pect this isn’t the typ­i­cal crime that Pi­late wants it to be.

The story line of Lu­cius (Tom Fel­ton) as the new se­cond-in-com­mand for Clav­ius starts with po­ten­tial but loses steam quickly. The char­ac­ter ends up be­ing more wasted bag­gage than key player.

Even­tu­ally, Clav­ius sees the man he watched die on the cross. This is where the film leaves the pro­ce­dural el­e­ments be­hind and be­comes the story of one man’s dis­cov­ery of faith.

Di­rec­tor Kevin Reynolds should have picked up the movie at this spot. The crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is nowhere as in­trigu­ing as pur­su­ing the ques­tion of what would a non­be­liever do once given ab­so­lute proof of a higher be­ing.

This is where Fi­ennes shines (he seems a lit­tle bored go­ing through the in­ves­ti­ga­tion). Once his char­ac­ter must deal with his cri­sis of non­faith, the ac­tor trans­forms. He main­tains the stature he has earned as a Ro­man leader, but ex­presses the con­fu­sion and ac­cep­tance that comes when he fi­nally gets to talk with Yeshua.

Equally as com­pelling is Cur­tis. He brings both a power and an open­ness to the role that make his ver­sion of Je­sus one of the best played in film.

Reynolds and Paul Aiello have taken lib­er­ties with the Bi­ble, chang­ing what has been writ­ten about the days lead­ing up to the as­cen­sion. It helps serve the nar­ra­tive, but this is such hal­lowed ground that any di­ver­sions are dan­ger­ous.

But this isn’t a di­rect telling of events in the Bi­ble. “Risen” uses the Bi­ble as a ba­sis for a story about find­ing faith. As long as you look at the movie from that per­spec­tive, then it will ac­com­plish its pur­pose of cre­at­ing di­a­logue about be­ing a be­liever.

(PG-13, 132 min.) ★★★ ½ Boxer ado­nis creed’s nick­name here is “hol­ly­wood,” which is ap­pro­pri­ate: this movie — the sev­enth in the saga of rocky Bal­boa, and the first to make rocky a sup­port­ing player — scores a vic­tory for com­mer­cial amer­i­can film­mak­ing. re­unit­ing two years af­ter the re­mark­able, fact-based “Fruit­vale sta­tion,” writer-di­rec­tor ryan coogler and star Michael B. Jor­dan tell an­other story about an earnest young african-amer­i­can as­sert­ing his iden­tity in a so­ci­ety ea­ger to dis­miss or stereo­type him, but this tale is grounded in myth rather than head­lines: Jor­dan is ado­nis creed, son of leg­endary boxer apollo creed, rocky’s neme­sis turned friend in the first four “rocky” films. a foster-care or­phan ul­ti­mately raised in lux­ury by apollo’s widow (Phyli­cia rashad), ado­nis re­jects the sil­ver spoon for the padded gloves: he trav­els to Philadel­phia, to re­cruit the ag­ing rocky to be his trainer. rocky is played by sylvester stal­lone, of course, in a gen­er­ous, vale­dic­tory

Photo cour­tesy tristar Pic­tures/tns

Joseph Fi­ennes (left) and tom Fel­ton are ro­man of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of a body from a tomb in “risen.”

Joe Led­erer/twen­ti­eth cen­tury Fox FILM corp. via ap

ryan reynolds plays the foul-mouthed Marvel hero in “Dead­pool.”

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