Risen-movie-poster-Joseph-FiennesThe story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is one that has been told and retold uncounted times since the events in the early first millennium. Like the pledge of allegiance or the words to an all-time favorite song, the events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are well know to believers and unbelievers alike in Western “Christian” culture.

Risen takes that story and, through the experiences of the Roman Tribune Clavius, allows the viewer to experience it as an unbeliever faced with a seemingly impossible Truth. Presented as equal parts detective story and redemptive arc, Clavius is assigned to locate the “stolen” body of Jesus of Nazareth and to prevent what the Sanhedrin assure the Roman governor would become the seeds of the greatest rebellion in history.

Turns out they were right.

Normally, we try to provide a spoiler free section of our initial reaction episodes, but this episode is a bit different. Based on true events, the general events are common knowledge—what spoilers there are lay in the how the story is told. As such, we have tried to remain “spoiler-lite”. If you want to be really safe, though—go see Risen, then listen to Episode 47. Not only is the movie worth your time and money, it is exactly the kind of production we would like to see encouraged through remarkable ticket sales.

The score for Risen is composed by Roque Baños, and does a great job of providing the feel not only for the intensity of the events, but also seems consistent with the culture of the time and place. Roque Baños’s music definitely facilitates the transportation to first century Jerusalem!


There has been some concern expressed in a few circles, most notably, Christian circles, regarding the content of the movie. Everything from historical accuracy to the words of Christ (as they are presented in the context of the movie) is identified as a potential concern. A reference is even made to the admonition in the end of the book of Revelation:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

To get the down-low on these and other concerns for Risen, we recommend the blog entry by Tim Chaffey over at Midwest Apologetics, “10 Reflections on the Risen Movie.” He does an excellent job of addressing these concerns in a loving and logical way. 

That is not to say that having concerns are a bad thing! As a point in fact, evaluating media critically is the very mission of this podcast. As Christians, we are called to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” The kind of discussion that generates these concerns and that Tim uses to address them, is exactly what we are called to do as Christians.

Authentic story-telling

Along with Tim Chaffey’s blog, we’d also like to recommend PluggedIn Online’s review. The folks over at Focus on the Family do a great job breaking down the content and addressing anything that may concern families of different levels of maturity.

There is certainly cause for consideration, when it comes to levels of maturity. The time of Christ for the nation of Israel was a dark and violent time in particular, and armed conflict was a common occurrence. Risen reflects this in both it’s prolog and opening scenes. Another memorable depiction of the violence of this time is the miniseries from 1981, Masada.

Another great resource for examining the evidence between the life, death and life of Jesus is Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence of Jesus. It takes an evidentiary evaluation of the information that we have and makes a solid case for event the pre-Christian to believe that Jesus existed and did all the things as recorded in the gospels.

Character-driven stories

One particular thing that Eve and I appreciated was staying true to the source while maintaining a consistent storytelling method. A great example is the subtle way they presented the character of the centurion at the foot of the cross. He had such few lines, but through the actor’s portrayal and the script’s presentation, they communicated much of the awe and personal impact that the centurion experienced, as reflected in the three synoptic gospels:

When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)

And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47)

We also mention the famous (or perhaps, infamous?) film, The Passion of the Christ

If you’d like to see a short yet interesting featurette with director Kevin Reynolds and some of the cast, check out this one posted to YouTube by FilmIsNow.

Here is Tim Chaffey’s September 2012 blog entry, The Ever-Intriguing Shroud of Turin.

Will you ever be the same?

We wrap the our discussion with the final line of the movie, specifically the question: How was the last line of the movie intended?

  1. “I believe. I will never be the same.”
  2. “I believe…I will never be the same.”
  3. “I believe I will never be the same.”

We’re curious—what is your take?

Like many Christ-oriented films, the producers have provided some good looking study material for those who would like to delve deeper into the topics of the work. Be sure to check out the Risen Discussion Guide for some great tips on how to help viewers make sense of the feelings and themes of the movie.

The events reported in the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the keystone to the greatest news in all creation—that God became flesh, lived—and suffered—among us, and presented Himself as the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice that would redeem every man, woman, and child from the unimaginable fate of eternal damnation. By the grace of God, through faith, we receive the priceless gift of eternal life.

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What did you think of Risen? We would like to know, even if just your reactions to the trailer or the topics we shared in this episode. Or what general critical-thinking and entertainment thoughts or questions do you have? Would you like to suggest a movie or TV show for us to give a Christian movie review with critical thinking?

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About the Author
Disciple of the Christ, husband of one, father of four, veteran of the United States Army and geek to the very core, Tim remembers some of the 1970s and and still tries to forget much of the 1980s. He spends his days working as a Cisco technician in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and too many nights in the clutches of a good story, regardless of the delivery method.

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