Going into the movie, Risen, I knew nothing about it other than having seen the trailer on the Internet. The trailer was unimpressive to me so the movie was a very pleasant surprise.
Without giving away too much, let me say that it is not your typical remake of the Jesus story. It is a creative thought project. The story is told from the perspective of a fictional Roman Tribune named Clavius, played well by Joseph Fiennes. Clavius is charged with assuring that Jesus is dead, securing the tomb, and then attempting to find the body of Jesus after the tomb is discovered to be empty.
Most of the movie is pure, imaginative fiction. Certainly there must have been some interest by the Roman authorities when Jesus’ body went missing. We have no idea how much they were concerned. The only information we are given is that the Jewish authorities paid the soldiers a bribe and said that they would protect them if the story ever got back to the governor, Pontius Pilate (Matthew 28:11-15). For the movie’s sake, Pilate does find out and launches a thorough search for the body. Clavius becomes the proverbial “fly on the wall” who gets to observe things from an outsider’s perspective.
If you are a biblical purist then the movie is not for you. Some points of contact with the Gospel story do exist. The end of the crucifixion story and some of the events around the burial are portrayed. Jesus’ post-resurrection visit to the upper room is touched upon as is his appearance in Galilee. There is a healing of a leper that takes place which is not narrated in any of the Gospel stories but serves the plot device well. Jesus’ ascension is also portrayed but not as it is described in either Luke 24:50-53 or Acts 1:9-11.
Another unrealistic aspect of the movie is the relationship of Clavius, who is a Gentile, to the Jews. Jews clearly thought of Gentiles as unclean and would avoid them. This is a situation that persists well into the early Jewish-Christian period. The book of Acts narrates how it ends at the household of Cornelius in chapter 10. Even after that we find that the issue persists or reoccurs, according to the writings of the Apostle Paul. For the purposes of the movie, that issue is set aside and the disciples have a full understanding that such distinctions no longer matter.
This movie is not a “preachy” movie. There is no overt call to sinners to repent. Instead it is an exploration of what might have been had such a character as Clavius existed.
Significant effort has been made here not to offer anything that might spoil the movie-going experience. If you want further discussion on the movie and what makes a good Christian movie then I encourage you to read this article by Ken Samples of Reasons to Believe.