Rita’s Catholic Movie Review – Risen
by Rita Davidson
“Never killed a King before,” says one of the Roman soldiers looking unsure of himself, as they look upon Jesus on the cross. This movie opens with the Roman Tribune Clavius, (played smashingly by Joseph Fiennes) in a brutal battle with what I think were over-zealous Jews perhaps?
It takes a little while to figure out where you are IN this movie. After all most movies start at the beginning, but with these different movies coming out they are bringing us 360 degrees around the story of Jesus’ life from perspectives we haven’t thought of before. It takes a moment to get oriented. This movie takes us around the biblical story and leads to some needed liberties trying to flesh out the story. Nothing outrageous happens here.
You suddenly find out the Tribune is being sent to “break the legs of the Nazarene” and you see the sudden breaking of the Wall. We find out Jesus has just spoken, “It is finished.”
As Jesus is speared (saving his legs from being broken) you are pulled into the Roman Tribune’s life and view of Jesus death. He is given the task of watching Jesus’ tomb by an anxious Pilate (played disgustingly by Peter Firth). Not long after he is challenged to discover what happened to Jesus body.
He begins his investigation by tracking down apostles, or any followers and trying to find out more where he has gone. You soon see a glimpse of his thinking that it is as much curiosity as it is obedience to his commander he is seeking.
Pilate questions Clavius about his ambition, where is it leading? He answers, “Rome, position, power, to bring wealth, good family, place in the country, an end to travail, a day without death. Peace.”
“All that for peace, is there no other way?” Pilate asks. Ironically, we see the Tribune’s path to peace is filled with death.
When he began his interview with the blind Miriam she said Jesus told her, “You are seeds, already cast.” Then she tells Clavius, “Your too late”. Clavius is taken aback at WHO this Jesus WAS.
A little while later when he can find nothing of Jesus body, in desperation, he whispers a prayer to his Gods, this time saying a ‘bargain with Yahweh” praying to the Hebrew God for him find out who Jesus really was.
When he finally finds them gathered together in the ‘Upper Room’ he is taken aback again. He needs to regain himself before he goes back in to face them, only to sink down dropping his sword speechless as he puts his eyes on Jesus (played by Cliff Curtis), who is alive again.
Now we see that his curiosity has overcome his obedience and he blindly leaves his Roman companions to follow the apostles leaving a note for Pilate.
The Tribune is now with the apostles at a distance and eventually joins them and defends them saying, “You hold the world in your hands. I believe it resides in these men.” Referring to the apostles.
It really seems as if time stands still at this moment. The early Church resides in those apostles. It’s beautiful.
When Clavius finally has a chance to speak with Jesus, he is speechless saying, “I don’t know what to ask.” So Jesus questions him asking him, “what is on your mind?” He answers, “Being wrong, wagering eternity.” Isn’t that what we all fear? Wasting all our time doing our own will, and being wrong about eternity? That was a powerful statement. He is still wavering in his faith in Jesus, not fully believing until Jesus says what was on his mind, “a day without death.” This brings it full circle.
Without giving the entire story away, this story doesn’t take too many liberties but it does leave some glaring omissions that Catholics should be aware of.
Missing is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Except for a brief addressing to her at a distance at the crucifix, (I couldn’t confirm if they yelled at her) she is NOT in the Upper Room, NOT with the apostles. Her absence is BIG considering how as Catholics we know how she guided the apostles in the early Church.
Pope Leo XIII wrote in the encyclical ADIUTRICEM in 1895,
“The mystery of Christ's immense love for us is revealed with dazzling brilliance in the fact that the dying Saviour bequeathed His Mother to His disciple John in the memorable testament: "Behold thy son." Now in John, as the Church has constantly taught, Christ designated the whole human race, and in the first rank are they who are joined with Him by faith. It is in this sense that St. Anselm of Canterbury says: "What dignity, O Virgin, could be more highly prized than to be the Mother of those to whom Christ deigned to be Father and Brother!" With a generous heart Mary undertook and discharged the duties of her high but laborious office, the beginnings of which were consecrated in the Cenacle. With wonderful care she nurtured the first Christians by her holy example, her authoritative counsel, her sweet consolation, her fruitful prayers. She was, in very truth, the Mother of the Church, the Teacher and Queen of the Apostles, to whom, besides, she confided no small part of the divine mysteries which she kept in her heart.” (1)
She ‘nurtured the first Christians” and guided them with her “authoritive counsel”. It is sad that her place is missing in this otherwise great movie. Her absence is understandable considering how misunderstood her place is in the Protestant Church.
In this movie, Mary Magdalene replaced Mary in this scene in the upper room. When she places an authoritive hand on Jesus shoulder he disappears. This is an obvious position Our Lady had, who was Jesus mother.
Some other ill fitting things were the apostles, giggling when interviewed by a Roman Soldier making Bartholomew (played by Andy Gathergood) seems almost crazy. It was almost like the realism of this story took away from the extraordinariness of the story of Jesus the God-man.
A few other minor things; that I will leave you to decide, but I truly LOVED St Peter, (played by Stewart Scudamore). He was so LARGE of a character. I could only imagine how well St Peter guided the early Church as its First Pope, with his great love for truth and Jesus. I truly admired St Peter so much more after seeing this.
Seeing Our Lord’s ascension was beautiful as well and although it took me a second viewing before I could appreciate this Jesus (played by Cliff Curtis), I did come to adapt to the humanity he portrayed.
Another favorite quote when Clavius is asked, “do you believe?”
He responds, “I believe – and will never be the same.”
I think this movie will do a lot of good today when so many do not know God. I hope it will open the doors to more questions, like, "Who was Jesus?" and "Who was His mother?" It does leave some unanswered questions for me.
It’s an exciting movie to interest those on the outside, to seek more. It can fulfill the hearts desire of those of us looking to Him for comfort in all our difficulties. Imagine when we get to spend an eternity with Him.
I hope you will go to see this and come back and share your thoughts and questions with me here?
Rita Xo 🙂