Retelling of crucifixion in crime-drama form

Joseph Fiennes as Roman tribune Clavius in Risen.
Joseph Fiennes as Roman tribune Clavius in Risen.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

REVIEW / DRAMA

RISEN

107 mins/opens tomorrow/3 stars

THE STORY: Roman tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) is tasked by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to locate Yeshua's (Colin Curtis) missing body following his crucifixion. What he discovers in the process shakes his belief system to the core.

If police procedural TV drama CSI does an episode about the Greatest Story Ever Told, it would probably look something like this.

Centred on the days following the crucifixion of Jesus, known in the Hebrew form of Yeshua here, the familiar biblical tale is refreshingly retold in crime-drama form, at least in the first half of the film.

Roman tribune Clavius is charged with investigating the growing rumours surrounding Yeshua's apparent resurrection and does so over a series of interrogations with witnesses such as Mary Magdalene and Bartholomew the Apostle.

Then, there are the field investigations as he ploughs through burial sites and dumping grounds to locate Yeshua's missing body.

The fresh treatment of the subject is surprisingly light; there is even some mild humour involved, with the running joke that Clavius has to be summoned reluctantly for work every day, but it is never disrespectful of the source material.

After all, this kind of faith-based film is shown every year during Easter to remind believers of the sacrifice Jesus made for them.

The problem with this approach to the story, however, is that there is no suspense. We all know how the tale goes, which pretty much goes against the foundation of a crime drama.

Even so, more could have been done about Clavius' emotional journey in his so-called awakening in the later half of the movie.

Here is a total sceptic who was tasked to quell the growing support for Yeshua, and yet he witnesses a resurrected Yeshua first-hand.

What are the kind of crazy thoughts going through his mind? Other than some mild disbelief, Fiennes' Clavius is so muted you do not find out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Retelling of crucifixion in crime-drama form'. Print Edition | Subscribe