Movie Review- Risen
by Michael Coughlin
I was privileged to see the Risen movie in advance courtesy of Sony Screenings. I enjoyed the movie, generally speaking, and there were a few parts where the story on the screen and my thoughts of my own relationship with Christ brought me to tears of joy over my salvation and sadness over my sin. Risen was entertaining. The acting and cinematography was stellar. The characters were believable and their interactions told the story well without a need for narration.
It is rated PG-13 for its gruesome depiction of crucifixion, a war battle, and blood and death. It isn’t gratuitous, though. It is part of the story and done in a way which makes sense. But I wouldn’t take a young child or someone who has PTSD or some kind of issue dealing with death or gruesome violence. I had to cover my 11 year old’s eyes on several occasions as it was too much gore for her.
Where the movie seems to try to communicate Biblical truths, I’d say it succeeds. Well, I’d give it a B or B+. But let me caution anyone who will see it, you will walk away with ideas from the movie that you will not find in the Bible. In some cases, things are just shown in a chronology that doesn’t fit with the biblical accounts. I would not recommend this movie as an ‘evangelistic tool.’ But if a nonbelieving friend or coworker wanted to see it, it could be a launchpad for discussion. Furthermore, I would not recommend this movie for a new Christian or a child who isn’t already very discerning and biblically knowledgeable.
I think where many reasonable people will be disappointed is the lack of a clear call to repent and believe in the Jesus in the story. He is undoubtedly depicted as God in the flesh, the suffering Savior and a loving and gentle shepherd. His resurrection and ascension are unmistakably testified to. What is missing is any real depiction of His wrath and imminent judgment. He is the “all love” Jesus. It is hard to know from watching this move whether a person would have enough truth communicated to them about their need for a Savior to cause them to run to the Savior.
The obvious emphasis was on Jesus’ teaching about loving others and his earthly ministry, especially miracles. We know from the New Testament that many people who witnessed Jesus’ miracles did not follow Him (John 6), yet the movie makes the implication that it was those miracles that kept at least one Apostle around.
To be fair, many true accounts from the Bible were very well portrayed. And, usually, where the makers took liberty, I thought they were fair and faithful to what is known from Scripture. But, as I wrote earlier, the mixture of extra-biblical and biblical, with no clear delineation can muddy the waters.
This movie is clearly an evidentialist’s idea of leading people to Christ. The concept of becoming a follower of Jesus, and even evangelizing the world is clear. But I’m afraid that the author doesn’t seem to think it is God’s Word that saves people and the hearing of the gospel. I think the presupposition is that somehow if we could get people to believe in a resurrection, they’d believe. It is in this way, the movie may fail the most. By creating a Forrest Gump style documentary with fiction interspersed with real history, they give the nonbeliever an easy out. A person can watch this movie and not be challenged by God’s truth, but rather see God’s truth as just one piece of fiction as part of a larger piece. Oh how much we lose when we don’t stick to the Word!
Finally, the movie is not entirely clear what exactly Jesus died for. There is no reference to God’s wrath for sinners being poured out on Jesus. Nor is there a definite explanation of faith, especially sola fide. I do not think a Roman Catholic, a Mormon or any number of other false “Christian” systems would have any problem with this movie. I suppose it is intentionally non-polarizing. This didn’t totally bother me, but I know some people for whom this would be the deal-breaker. That aspect actually made me think of how much we have in common with faithful Roman Catholics, and how that should affect our evangelism
When I walked out, I told my wife via text that it was better than The Passion of the Christ and not as good as any Kendrick brother movie (I haven’t seen War Room). It’s just sorta there: it will have nowhere near the impact upon eternity the makers may really hope it has, but I doubt it will lead anyone to terrible heresy or into forms of sin either. My recommendation is that you wait for the movie to come out on DVD. (If you really want to spend some money, then send it to a doctrinally sound missions or evangelism ministry. Here’s my suggestion.) But if you are a moviegoer, I also don’t see any harm in checking it out. As always, compare what you see with Scripture and you will be OK.
ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
Please keep in mind that this is a guest post. While I respect Michael’s perspective and observations about the movie, I have not seen it yet and will not be able to answer any questions about it or Michael’s thoughts pertaining to it. I’m going to take Michael’s advice and wait until it comes out on DVD. Find out more about Risen here. Answers in Genesis has also posted a review, Risen Movie Upholds Scripture.
Have you seen Risen yet?
What did you think of it?