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Risen (2016)Risen (2016)

I had decided not to see the movie Risen (Sony Pictures). The film was released nation-wide on February 19 to coincide with the run-up to Easter.  The story is about an agnostic Roman centurion named Clavius who is tasked by Pontius Pilate with debunking the rumors that a crucified criminal named Yeshua had risen from the dead.  It sounded like an easy job — after all, Clavius himself had given the order to spear Yeshua in the side as he hung from the cross, so all he had to do was to identify the dead body.  The Tomatometer gave Risen a paltry 57%.  Metacritic registered 51%.  And although I hadn't even seen the movie, that didn't stop me from resonating with the review by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone magazine (February 19, 2016): "Risen joins the swelling ranks of faith-based films that pander to audiences instead of serving them."

Nonetheless, I repressed my cinematic snootiness, and one Friday afternoon about a month before Easter I went to see Risen.  In many ways my predisposed views were confirmed; Travers was right.  And you can always quibble about the film's ratio of biblical accuracy to artistic license.  I'll let you guess if there's a conversion.  But in one important regard I really liked Risen — it helped me to imagine that in real history and in real human lives something like the story about Clavius definitely happened after the death of Jesus.  Rumors and denials.  Fear and confusion.  Doubt and incredulity.  That's exactly what we read in the gospels.  In the end, I'm glad I went.

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