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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Roamin' Roman Tells All

Risen (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A panoramic view of a barren landscape reveals a distant perambulating figure. An inter­title informs us it's in a.d. 37, Judean desert. The traveller arrives at a stone hut where the proprietor asks, “Roman, huh?” observing, “That's a Tribune's ring”—a Tribune holds authority over Centurions. After he replies, “Yes,” the proprietor asks, “Have you come far?” From there we go to the story in flashback.

The Tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) is mounting a phalanx attack against a Jewish strong­hold—the Jews didn't care for their Roman occupiers. Their ring­leader in defeat spouts off with, “The one true God chooses us over you.” Clavius replies, before administering the coup de grace, “Not today he doesn't.” The Jew's final words are, “When the Messiah comes, Rome will be NOTHING!”

A message from his aide Lucius (“Pilate summons you”) brings Clavius in haste back to Jerusalem where the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) is having trouble keeping the peace at the Jewish Pass­over (“I had to crucify him.”) He tells Clavius to, “Take Control.” Clavius arrives at a scene of three crosses in a row and says, “This has gone on long enough.” The Sabbath starts in two hours. A soldier says, It's a “strange day to be on duty. Every­thing's wrong.” The bloke on the middle cross announces, “It's finished!” A woman screams. It's “the Nazarene's mother, keep her quiet.” A soldier pierces her son to make sure he's dead then says he's “never killed a king before.” Joseph of Arimathea (Antonio Gil) is granted the body to bury in “your own family tomb” and tells Nicodemus to hurry.

Back at the palace Pilate asks Clavius, “Is the Nazarene entombed?” He replies that he “pushed the huge stone in myself.” Pilate orders him to “Seal it!” which he does with stout ropes and official seals. He sets a guard over it. Come morning, and “Yeshua, he's gone!” From here the movie concerns itself with finding his body that isn't around because he's risen, and squelching an imagined uprising of his followers which doesn't occur as they are at peace with the civil authorities. Thus the rest of the story is a farce.


Allowing the raconteur his tardy perspective and a little bit of poetic license the movie story is pretty consistent with the Gospels … with one notew­orthy exception: Peter uses a non-standard ending on the Lord's Prayer (i.e. the ‘Our Father’ or Pater­noster.) Standard fare has it, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Orthodox Christians say “deliver us from the evil one.”) Peter, how­ever, doubles down on avoiding temptation: “Lead us not into temptation … but away [from it].” The context is Peter had just startled the Tribune who was tagging along with the apostles and lost his temper when the soldier struck him in haste.

1 Corinthians 7This movie seems to represent an answer to Peter's prayer as taking the gospel to the Gentiles was a hard pill for him and the other apostles to swallow. Later in the book of Acts, Peter had to be given a clear sign twice and then rehearse the matter with the twelve. In the movie, though, the risen Yeshua (Jesus) treats the Tribune as a follower rather than wait to have Peter do it first with the Centurion Cornelius, thus steering the apostles away from the temptation to ignore the Gentiles. I dare­say that Christians today often treat a brother or sister shabbily who marries an unbeliever, not­with­standing they give the "offender" a break had he or she already been married to such a one prior to conversion. This despite the apostle Paul's clear instruction that (1Cor. 7:14) “the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband,” and that it applies whether married sooner or later, (1Cor. 3:21-22) “all things are yours; Whether … the world, or … things present, or things to come; all are your's.” Paul was a later addition to Christ's apostle­ship, see 1Cor. 15:8-11. See also my study on the subject.

There are a couple ancillary sequences in the movie relating to this very issue. When looking for Mary Magdalene, Clavius was told, “she's of the street.” That has more to do with her character—or more precisely her character at one time—than her where­abouts, although they might have to apprehend her in the street if she climbs out a window. Similarly, when Paul says a widow is restricted (1Cor. 7:39) “to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord,” that has more to do with her character abiding and operating “in the Lord” than it does the state of grace of her chosen husband, though often they will marry other Christians with­out any obligatory command. New "dynamic" translations—idea for idea rather than word for word—rework the “only in the Lord” limitation to specific­ally address marrying only another Christian, thus leading church­men into the temptation to treat shabbily a brother or sister who doesn't.

The second sequence has Clavius a follower of the god Mars praying at a Mars shrine, but he directs his prayer to Yahweh the God of the Jews asking for a clear sign if indeed Yeshua is the Messiah. Paul to Christians gives a clear warning not to mix pagan worship with the Christian, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” The Greek verb makes it clear that it's pagan worship and service he is referring to, which isn't spelled out as clearly in English. In the Authorized Version we at least have the plural pronoun ye, so unless we thought Paul was talking about group marriage, we'd need to take care before applying it to a singular pronoun thou. Checking the context of his succeeding rhetorical statements all derived from the Old Testament (See my study) we see that Paul indeed is focused on corporal worship and/or service, not on marriage. Word for word translations that substitute the nonspecific you for the plural ye lead Christians into the temptation to mentally make the shift in case with­out bothering to check it out.

Production Values

This movie, “” (2016) was directed by Kevin Reynolds. It was co-written by Kevin Reynolds and Paul Aiello. It stars Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, and Peter Firth. Joseph Fiennes, who portrayed the Roman in the lead role, was great! Mary Magdalene was played convincingly by actress Maria Botto. Bartholomew (one of Jesus's 12) came across like one of the Jesus freaks from our 20th century Jesus movement of hippie days. Cliff Curtis portrayed Yeshua in character for the brief glimpses we get of him.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for biblical violence including some disturbing images. The Holy Land scenery was beautiful. The sets were realistic but not ostentatious. The cinema­tog­raphy was low key. The pacing seemed a little slow at the start but picked up later. The picture had an historical affect to it rather than that of Hollywood. I mean, it seemed like we were really trans­ported back in time, not just to some screen version. This was dust and dirt and palpable tension between the Jews and Romans, to say nothing of the slimy priests. Jesus was a bit hard to recognize at first because he didn't fit the popular images of him. In this movie he was squat of stature, swarthy of complexion, and pug-nosed. Reminds me of the comment from a Daniel Ray novel concerning “an eerie shrine” (181):

Bobby said, “It's the Madonna.”

Jael said, “Who?”

I said, “Jesus Christ's mother.”

Jael said, “I thought Jesus was Israeli. She does not look Israeli.”


Jael said, “She looks European.”

Bobby said, “Have you seen the paintings? So does Jesus. Let's get out of this f__king field.”

I said, “Nice language in front of the Madonna.”

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I was altogether satisfied with this picture (once I recognized Jesus.) It places an historical drama on top of a recognizable Gospel story, and the liberty it takes with a Gentile tagging along with the disciples focuses on the broader issue of Christ's acceptance of all people. The pacing improved once the movie got off the ground. It focuses on a miraculous resurrection, the odd miracle, and Christian acceptance.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Ray, Daniel. Corrupted Memory. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2015. Print.