'Risen' resurrection drama coming to big screen

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Sony Pictures Entertainment

HOLLYWOOD (Christian Examiner) – A film scheduled for release in January 2016 will probe the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the Roman centurion responsible for his crucifixion.

Risen stars Joseph Fiennes, who played the lead role in 1998's Shakespeare in Love, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Fiennes is also well-known among Christian audiences for his portrayal of the German monk Martin Luther in the faith-based epic, Luther, in 2003.

Unlike other recent films, such as Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, which retold biblical stories with very loose interpretations of the text, Risen is not strictly a faith-based story. Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection are the framework on which the historical drama hangs.

In the film, Fiennes' character, Clavius, is tasked by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) with investigating rumors about the resurrection of a Jewish Messiah, known as "the Nazarene." His quest brings him across the path of the disciples, both male and female. Fiennes search begins at the empty tomb.

"That's where the detective work comes in," Fiennes told USA Today. "This is an extraordinary story and well-known to everyone. But it takes us on this journey through the eyes of a nonbeliever."

Clavius' belief in his own gods – he has shed blood in their names – is challenged throughout the film and he realizes all he has experienced will force him to change. But the film is not tame. For those who like grand displays of mortal combat on film, there is plenty, according to Fiennes.

Risen, filmed on Malta,contains numerous battle scenes between the Roman legions and Jewish zealots. Jesus (Cliff Curtis) is only seen in brief glimpses throughout the film. According the film's producer, Mickey Liddell, the brief appearances of the Messiah build expectation within the drama.

"The few times you do see him, you realize you have been waiting for that the whole movie," Liddell told USA Today.

Fiennes said the film is "pure cinema."

"I am foremost a lover of stories. The Bible is the most extraordinarily rich source of narratives, featuring the most beautiful stories ever written or handed down," Fiennes said.