‘Risen’ soars



In this image provided by Columbia Pictures, Joseph Fiennes as Clavius leads his Roman soldiers during the zealot battle in Columbia Pictures’ “Risen.” The movie opens in U.S. theaters nationwide Feb. 19, 2016. (Rosie Collins/Columbia Pictures via AP)

Emmanuel Akinola, Staff Writer

‘Risen’ is a faith-based historical drama that takes place during the 40 days following the resurrection of Christ, and is told through the eyes of a Roman centurion named Claudius.

The stars include Joseph Fiennes as Claudius, Tom Felton as Claudius’s protege Lucius, Cliff Curtis as Jesus, Stewart Scudamore as Simon Peter, Maria Betto as Mary Magdalene and Peter Firth as Pontius Pilate.

The first 20 minutes serve to introduce Claudius as a driven man who serves Pilate as his right-hand without question.

Fiennes’s performance as a cold, almost detached soldier is well executed even as the film progresses and the many layers of the character are gradually revealed.

The plot pivots when Pilate orders Claudius to investigate the claims of a risen messiah after Jesus’ body disappears. Under Claudius’ supervision, two of the guards at the tomb failed in their duty to guard the tomb.

Claudius wants to purge the disgrace brought on him by his men, but as he investigates the circumstances surrounding the supposed resurrection, his life is changed forever.

The film charts the progress of a man—a hardened skeptic—who eventually becomes a believer, giving a moving character arc for the film. Thanks to the well-written script, there were also several moments of mirth which enhanced the movie experience.

When Claudius interrogates one of Jesus’s followers, Bartholomew, the man nonchalantly accepts the threat of crucifixion. Claudius’ explicit description of the torment that punishment would bring only makes Bartholomew continue his non-compliance and he shrugs it off like he’s a stoned hippie when he’s released.

Over the course of the film, Claudius’ character shifts from denial to bargaining with Yahweh, and promising to forsake the Roman god of war Mars if his mission is successful.

The film borrows from the classic 2000 film ‘Gladiator’, but also feels like a mystery as Claudius conducts his investigation. The dialogue is witty, and at times poignant.

All the performances were well-done except for Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. His performance as Lucius was one-dimensional and unengaging.

For me, the turning point of the film is when Claudius meets one of the other guards and learns of an extraordinary cause behind the disappearance of Christ’s body.

The use of an extended flashbacks for the film’s narrative may be cliche, but served in showcasing Claudius’s eventful journey.

The music score by Roque Banos can be a little generic at times, but serves in setting up suspense at certain moments and it also fits the time period.

The cinematography by Lorenzo Senatore was also well done. The film incorporates wide shots that envelop the surroundings. There’s also good camera work that sets up the mood and at times shows angst in Claudius’s mind.

Senatore also uses lighting techniques in the scene where Claudius interrogates Mary Magdalene. Sitting at the window, she’s bathed in light from the morning sun, signifying her seeing the “light” as Claudius stands by with his face half-lit, showing the conflict inside.

‘Risen’ was a film that was much more than expected and I highly recommend it for any potential moviegoer. Religious themes aside, the film is sure to dazzle both believers and non-believers alike.

The movie hit theaters Feb. 19. Clocking in at 109 minutes, this film is well-paced; there was never a dull moment.

The film was directed by Kevin Reynolds, who also co-wrote the original script with Paul Aiello.