March 26, 2016

Seen and believed

Risen (Kevin Reynolds, 2015). Risen is neither a daringly revisionist Jesus movie in the mode of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ nor a bloody slice of ideological violence in the tradition of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, to which it was planned as an unofficial sequel. Former Costner sidekick Kevin Reynolds directs – at Reynolds’ 1990s commercial peak, you might have said that he had a knack for choreographing epic exercises in crowd-pleasing mythology (Rapa Nui, Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), but it’s hard to tell if this relatively low-budget and modestly staged Biblical film is a personal statement for him or just another job. Either way, the mood is traditional, respectful and slightly tepid, with Joseph Fiennes’ taciturn and death-haunted Roman centurion moved or shaken, forever changed, by his sightings of the resurrected Christ, played by the Maori Jesus (Cliff Curtis) as a figure of love, peace and generosity rather than the leader of the apocalyptic rebellion that the prissy Pilate (Peter Firth) fears. At best, the film is a footnote that cleaves closely to the story as it has come down to us, despite the invention of a Roman witness as an audience intermediary rather than the early Christian movement telling its own story – can we call this Romansplaining?