Risen…Witnessed and Reviewed

Christian movies are a growing stream of revenue for mainstream Hollywood studios.   With the success of blockbusters like the Passion of the Christ, which earned over $145M at the box office, and independent films like Bella, which grossed over $30M at the box office,studios and distributions companies have taken note of one major fact: there is a strong and healthy market for faith-based films.   

Affirm Pictures, established in 2008, was established by Sony Pictures to produce and distribution faith-based and inspirational motion pictures.  Affirm recently released the movie entitled Risen, directed by Kevin Reynolds. The film tells a fictional story of Clavius, a powerful and feared Roman tribune.   

Film summary:  Risen begins with a war scene in which Clavius is depicted as a merciless leader loyal to Rome. Clavius will stop at nothing to punish the enemies of Rome and to advance his personal ambitions for power and wealth. Clavius is the right-hand enforcer of Pontius Pilot.

The real plot begins during the time of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Pilot orders Clavius to make sure “the Nazarine” is dead on the cross. When Clavius arrives at Golgotha he looks upon the bloodied face of Jesus who appears dead. The spear is thrust into His side and Clavius witnesses the blood and water spilling from Jesus upon the face of a freighted Roman soldier.

Thereafter the Pharisees complain to Pilot that if the followers of Jesus steal the body there will be an uprising. Pilot orders Clavius to secure the location where Jesus is buried.   Clavius orders two guards to stand watch.  The two guards proceed to drink and eventually fall asleep.  All chaos ensues.

It is soon discovered that the ropes securing the cave have burst and the body of Jesus is gone.  Clavius is furious. He believes someone has stolen the body of Jesus for the purpose of causing trouble for the Roman empire. He quickly begins arresting anyone suspected of being involved. However, soon his world is turned upside down. Clavius witnesses something that shakes him to the core. Clavius enters a room only to see Jesus, the same man he looked upon on the cross, sitting and speaking with his disciples. Clavius, a man of knowledge and facts, hastens to follow the disciples in order to find some explanation for what he has seen.   

Review:  Risen is not a Bible story - it is purely fictional. However, the movie does provide an opportunity for inspiration by sharing the unique perspective of a Roman soldier. The film contains some violence and graphic content most likely appropriate for teenagers and adults.

While I do not provide an outright endorsement of Risen, I am pleased to see that Hollywood continues to produce high-quality stories that contain strong Christian messages.  The message I gathered from Risen is one of forgiveness and redemption.  Clavius was a good soldier by the Roman standard - but he committed some horrific acts in order to further his cause.  Witnessing the resurrection of Jesus humbled Clavius.  He left everything, his power, his wealth and his ambitions in order to follow and to seek the Truth.   

One of my favorite lines of the movie is when Jesus is speaking to Clavius. Jesus says “you have seen and yet you still doubt - imagine how difficult it will be for those who have not seen.”    This dialogue strikes me for two reasons: First,  there are folks in our world who have a complete devotion to Jesus without ever seeing. They simply have the grace of faith - if we all could be so blessed. Second, there are numerous people who have either never heard the Scripture or simply decide to ignore Scripture in their daily lives. How many of us hear the Word but do not act upon it? This is what I love about the Catholic Witnesses’ goal to inspire Christians to live out their faith in all facets of their daily lives. Each of us has an opportunity to demonstrate our Christian faith through our actions, large and small.

Are you a witness? Are you prepared to follow Christ - to be in the world but not of it? We should strive everyday to pick up our crosses and follow the Lord. The fictional Clavius did so by leaving his Roman career behind.

As for Risen - if you check it out, be sure to let us know what you think. You can comment on this post or share your thoughts with us on Facebook.


By Royce Hood

Catholic Witnesses

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