Joseph Fiennes calls 'Risen' movie a 'second chance' portrayal of the Jesus story

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Actor Joseph Fiennes says it's natural to have questions about Jesus – questions that Scripture may not directly answer but are nevertheless fascinating to ponder and explore.

For Fiennes, who plays the lead role in the biblically-inspired "Risen" – which opens Friday -- such questions began as a child, when he was introduced to the story of Christ

"It stuck with me and it's had a huge effect on me," Fiennes told the Christian Examiner, referencing not only the Gospel story but the Bible in general. "From a young age, we're always circling these stories, and in particular the extraordinary moments in the Bible. It's in our DNA to search, to question, to have dialogue."

"Risen" examines one such question: What did Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers do after Jesus' rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb? The Bible gives few details, but "Risen" weaves a fascinating story in which Pilate orders a Roman general, Clavius (Fiennes) to search for the body of Christ. Pilate and Clavius each believe the body was stolen, but Clavius is shocked to discover not only that the body wasn't stolen, but that Jesus is alive.

"We're fascinated by antiquity, we're always looking to the past for answers," Fiennes added. "And the answers are all there. And I think this opens up the box of discussion and re-examination."

The movie is being released roughly one month prior to Easter by Affirm Films, which also was behind "War Room" and "Heaven Is For Real."

Rich Peluso of Affirm Films said that while "Risen" may not be "biblically based," it is "scripturally harmonious."

"The elements of the story where it touches Scripture are true to Scripture," Peluso said.

All moviegoers, Fiennes said, can relate somehow to Fiennes and his desire for answers and redemption.

"He's a military man. He's in the industry of death. He's a high level military tribune. He has spent all of his career in violent places, and he's a brilliant tactical man of war. Death surrounds him," Fiennes said. "Clavius gets a second chance, and maybe that's what we can see as a representation (of ourselves) – that sense that there is a second chance."

Fiennes also starred as Martin Luther in the 2003 movie "Luther," and will play Olympian Eric Liddell in the still-in-production "The Last Race," dubbed the unofficial sequel to "Chariots of Fire."

Risen is rated PG-13 for biblical violence, including some disturbing images.