The acting is real; the settings superb, recreated in Spain for the movie, which depicted the historical accounts of the messianic hopeful named in English Jesus of Nazareth. He is often titled in the movie "The Nazarene" highlighting his roots in nearby Galilee. Scenes include fishing, the healing of a leper, terrorised Jews running from Roman domination, even the end of the crucifixion scene well known in history of three criminals.
Tom Felton (Lucius) from the Harry Potter series plays a rookie tribune-to-be and has some serious conflicts with his hero, played so well by Fiennes. Peter Firth (Pilate) had many issues, most of which had to do with keeping the calm. I liked that most characters are not one-dimensional. I say 'most' because the Jewish leadership seems always aggravated and malicious. Everything that Mel Gibson did not allow about Jewish people in his "Passion of the Christ" Kevin Reynolds (director)and Paul Aiello (scriptwriter) did. I'm disappointed with that part of the film. However, the main storyline is so good that I can somewhat overlook that (with regrets).
The visual references to the Shroud of Turin, which doesn't come into history's play for over a millennium is unnecessary I thought. The sealing of the tomb of Yeshua, the love of the Nazarene and fair-go by Joseph of Arimathea are important highlights and have been well-included. The conversation with Bartholomew (Nathaniel) and Clavius highlight the issue of doubt/ faith and why anyone should ever believe in this story.
I like the character of Yeshua (Cliff Curtis, Kiwi actor) who during the first half of the movie is known only through a visual point-- his death. He doesn't move nor speak. The woman Mary Magdalene, along with the disciples Peter, John, even Thomas, come to their own as the movie continues and then the major risen character, Yeshua takes centre stage. And he's a likeable triumphant one. He appears and disappears. He instructs the fearful followers to meet him up north. He comes and goes at will. And during his post-resurrection visits he eats with them, helps them find a major fish cache, forgives and re-instructs Simon Peter, and the leper scene happens. (Which doesn't happen in the biblical record at that time). All the while Clavius, with Lucius and his colleagues, seek to finish this rumour's nonsense, find the body, and settle Jerusalem back to normal.
I won't unpack the ending, but since the Bible doesn't record any interactions between Yeshua and unbelievers after the Resurrection, the encounters "Risen" show are "Hollywood"ed for us. It does make for a good story, and what Clavius determines is useful for every believer and every unbeliever who watch to the end. I like that the Hollywood add-ons are not distractions at all, but rather make the story that much fuller. After all, when CSI, NCIS, and Ben Hur come together this is a likely screenplay.
The main question anyone will have when they make their way to the parking lot is "Is that true? Did Yeshua rise from the dead?" And that's a huge question for all of us to ask. If he had risen, from the reality of the crucifixion, then what evidence is required? Two things: 1) his body was not in the grave and 2) physical appearances to many. Without the empty tomb, the appearances are mere fancy, hallucinations of madmen. Without the appearances, the empty tomb is merely evidence of some clever grave robbers and re-buriers. But with both... the evidence is in. And Clavius and every honest skeptic has to deal with that reality.
And so do you. So, watch the movie. It's worth the money. And it may impact your life more than Harry Potter. More than Fiennes' Shakespeare in Love. You never know. Give it a try soon. Before it goes to video.