Risen movie review: when habeas corpus gets weird

RisenHere’s something we don’t see often on the big screen: a detective story set in the ancient world. There are lots of novels, but I can’t think of a single other movie in the mold of Risen, an initially intriguing mystery tale in which a politically ambitious Roman soldier, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes [Hercules, Running with Scissors], who is terrific here), is set to a policing task by Pilate (Peter Firth: Spooks: The Greater Good, Pearl Harbor), the Roman governor of the province of Judea in the Middle East. It seems that the followers of a local rabble-rousing preacher who was just executed believe that he is some sort of “messiah” and that he will somehow rise from the dead, so Pilate instructs Clavius to put a guard on the preacher’s tomb, lest his followers steal the body and proclaim him arisen in fulfillment of their prophecy. And when Clavius’s inept guards fail at their task and the body does indeed disappear from the tomb, the soldier now has to hunt down the preacher’s followers in the hopes of finding the body and disproving the “prophecy.” The whole situation is, you see, perceived to be politically embarrassing for the local religious authorities and for the Romans, all of whom obviously have no use for the antiestablishment attitude the dead preacher had been spreading.

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