Risen (2016) stands out among its cinematic contemporaries as being one of those few religiously based films that manages to tell a tale intelligently, albeit, unconvincingly.
The Plot: The storyline takes place in 33 AD, when a Roman Tribune (Joseph Fiennes) situated in Judea, is assigned to locate the missing body of a Jew rumored to have come back from the grave.
The Good and The Bad: What I preferred most about Risen is how it took a distinct approach to such a thought-provoking subject. This is especially in regard to the awesome initial-hour when the investigation is launched by the Tribune into the matter of the missing Jew. We see interrogations without violence unlike many other movies in this category.
And that’s where the humor pours on to the screen. The main character Tribune Clavius, questions those related to the case, in a solemn manner but the answerers’ reactions are priceless. This is also where the strength relative to the acting is properly showcased. The supporting cast, though given much lesser screentime, managed to clear the religious air surrounding the controversial theme. We see different types of individuals being questioned, and their responses are this venture’s highlight.
Where production is concerned, the meager budget of $20 million paid off with beautiful set design. DOP Lorenzo Senatore succeeded in adding a lightweight touch to a heavyweight atmosphere. We have warriors, government officials and of course the lower class, but they all were compiled together with awe-inspiring finesse.
Where primary acting is concerned, Fiennes might be the lead star, but Cliff Curtis who played Yeshua, the lost Jew, was a joy to watch. He suited the role perfectly on the surface, and despite looking out of place in some scenes, his overall performance is wonderful. Not only does he bring hope to the poor depicted in the picture but makes Clavius challenge his own morality. The conflict of right vs. wrong is prominent throughout the approximate duration of 100 minutes.
I also favored Tom Felton who portrayed Lucius, Clavius’ subordinate, and Peter Firth who gave a cynical enactment of Pontius Pilate. Sarcasm is a compelling aspect of the narrative and Kevin Reynolds breathed life into the screenplay co-written by him and Paul Aiello, who also provided the story.
Risen declines after its stereotype-defying first hour, it literally goes downhill from there, instead of rising up as the title suggests. We have our hero questioning his morality, but not as he did artistically in the foremost 60 minutes, because afterwards the exhibition relies more on clichés just to show off misplaced CGI in the third act.
And that’s Risen’s greatest disappointment. It had so much potential that, with better penmanship, the movie could’ve been a possible contender for next year’s Best Original Screenplay. With so much hard work implemented early on, the potential was equally powerful for a grand ending, but we’re left with such a finisher that will make us question why we decided to view this feature in the first place.
The Verdict: Risen showed great promise from the onset, but due to typical screen-treatment of the last 40 minutes, it does not manage to rise above mediocrity. Ultimately, this faith-orientated entry executed a half-hearted attempt to convince skeptics of its underlying message.
2.5 out of 4.