Why 'Risen' is One of My All-Time Favorite Movies

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Friday, February 19, 2016
Why 'Risen' is One of My All-Time Favorite Movies

Why 'Risen' is One of My All-Time Favorite Movies


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Risen premieres in theaters today. It depicts a Roman tribune named Clavius who reports directly to Pontius Pilate. 

My point is not to review the movie (for more on the film and its faith impact, please see Janet Denison's The Movie 'Risen': This Year's Easter Gift). Rather, I'd like to tell you why Risen is now one of my favorite movies—Christian or not—of all time.

Kevin Reynolds directs the film. Reynolds directed nine movies before Risen, and is best-known for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (starring Kevin Costner), Waterworld, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Joseph Fiennes plays Clavius. A veteran of twenty-seven previous films, the actor is best known for Shakespeare in Love and Luther

One reviewer described Fiennes as "superb, portraying a man slowly transformed by events that shake his beliefs about the world and his place in it to the core." Peter Firth as Pilate is also described as "excellent." And director Reynolds gets rave reviews as well: "With intelligence and great moviemaking skill he has created a classic variation on a venerated ancient theme." 

My wife and I were privileged to attend a screening of Risen earlier this week. After the movie ended, Joseph Fiennes and members of the production team stepped into our theater to discuss the movie. 

Fiennes was asked how he prepared to play Clavius. His answer surprised me: He went to Rome, where he enrolled in gladiator school. There he worked with professional gladiators, the better to become a Roman soldier himself. As he told us, "the Romans fought the way they lived." They were brutal, economical, and precise. Fiennes paid the price to transmit this mindset to the screen.

Here's my point: Risen is excellent because those who made it were committed to excellence.

I once interviewed Eric Metaxas at Dallas Baptist University, where I asked him what message he would have for Christian schools. His answer: Earn the right to be heard. Serve in love, but with a passion to be the best we can be for God.

Eric's answer echoes clear biblical themes:

•    "Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him" (Daniel 6:3).

•    "If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).

•    "Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men" (Proverbs 22:29).

•    "Approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10).

To impact your culture for Jesus, be your best for God's glory today.

Publication date: February 19, 2016

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