Review: ‘Risen’ Is a Dull Biblical Tale

John Allegretti ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Joseph Fiennes in Risen. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Risen opens with a man walking through the desert sporting a five o’clock shadow and a knack for wooden acting. We learn that this hunk of wood is Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a tribune for the Roman Military. Joining Fiennes is Harry Potter star Tom Felton, who plays another Roman by the name of Lucius. Most of the film is a flashback as Clavius recalls the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion and his search with Lucius for the Messiah’s body.

What’s interesting is how closely Risen follows the tropes of a buddy cop detective movie. You have the grizzled, loose cannon cop who gets partnered up with a younger, by-the-book officer to solve a crazy mystery. By this logic Risen should be a seriously entertaining movie, but the film never becomes interesting or engaging. Risen is a movie written for a religious audience, but it also seems to be for people who haven’t heard about the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a film with a lot of style and good intentions, but it lacks any heart. Instead of characters undergoing changes because of the spectacular events around them, they just exclaim “Wow! Look at that!” and move on.

Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton in Risen. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

If Risen was a two-hour long poker game, Fiennes and Felton’s performances would be Academy Award-worthy. These are characters that have absolutely no chemistry together (or on their own). Fiennes plays the typical brooding male action hero, devoid of all feeling and emotion. Tom Felton is a guy who’s an amazing actor but has been type cast as a one-dimensional bully throughout his career. Felton fortunately doesn’t play a bully in this film, but tragically doesn’t do much acting at all. You could have swapped him for a cardboard cutout and the film would’ve played exactly the same. If there is a great performance here, it’s Cliff Curtis as Jesus. Curtis is a great New Zealand character actor who’s been in films like Three Kings and Training Day, and he really shines here. His character expresses emotion and has clear goals, something of a rarity in this film.

Risen is directed by Kevin Reynolds, a guy who people know from the Kevin Costner vehicles of the 90’s such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld. This is his first film in a decade and is for the most part, a competent production. The cinematography is good, the blocking solid, but Risen’s visuals are far from rich. Reynolds fails to use basic elements like rain, fire, dust, or wind to convey emotion or grit in most scenes. When you take these things out of a film it ends up becoming less of a movie and more of a clean and sterile product. There are exceptions to this if you’re making something like a dystopian science fiction film, but Risen never feels as realistic or emotional as a movie set 2000 years ago should feel.

Overall Grade: D+

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