"Risen": manhunt for the Messiah

Author: Kristina Cooper

"Risen": manhunt for the Messiah

Hollywood’s latest biblical movie, Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes, is a gripping retelling of the hunt for Jesus' body after Easter Sunday, says Kristina Cooper.

Since 2004’s very successful The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson, which proved there was a mass market for such films, Hollywood has sought to cash in and find other biblical themes to put on the big screen. 

Some of these have oscillated from the naff to the bizarre.

However, its latest offering, Risen, is both gripping and faith affirming.

Written by Paul Aiello, directed by Hollywood veteran Kevin Reynolds (who collaborated with Kevin Costner on Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves), and starring Joseph Fiennes, Risen covers the period between the crucifixion of Christ and the Ascension

Hunting Christ

The movie tells the familiar resurrection story through the eyes of a battle-weary Roman Military Tribune called Clavius, played by Fiennes.

Clavius is at the crucifixion and oversees the sealing of the tomb in which Jesus’ corpse is laid to rest. When the body vanishes from the tomb, it is he who is dispatched by Pontius Pilate to find out what has happened.

Everyone assumes that the body has been stolen by Christ’s followers to add credence to his claim that he is the longed-for Messiah, and that he would rise again.

Even though as Christians we know the end of the story, we become involved in Clavius’ hunt, and experience his shock when he finally tracks down the disciples hidden away in an upper room, and finds that Jesus is indeed alive, but elusive.

When Jesus disappears again, Clavius follows the disciples to Galilee where he joins them on the seashore for the well-known breakfast of barbecued fish.

Risky retelling

Putting a fictional character into such well-known gospel passages is a high-risk strategy. However, because of the calibre of the acting and the production values, the risk pays off, bringing the wonder of the resurrection alive in a new way to both Christian and non-believer alike.

Joseph Fiennes is very at home in the part and is both rugged and subtle as he goes from hardened cynicism to the beginnings of belief.

The cast is international with hardly an American accent in sight. Mary Magadalene is played by Argentinian actress Maria Botto, and Jesus by Cliff Curtis, a New Zealander of Maori extraction.

Having seen an early preview of the film, I can’t wait to see it again. It is extremely engaging on all levels, and has such high production values that it will appeal to both committed Christians and to those who just want a good night out with an exciting film.

Risen will be in cinemas nationwide on Friday 18th March (Palm Sunday weekend). Do try and see it on that first weekend if possible, as numbers then determine how long a cinema will book it for. And this is a film that you will want to see more than once…and take others to!

To that end, there are resoures for those who wish to promote the film in their churches available at These resources include photos, trailers and a video of the movie's stars meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican.


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