Most people know Joseph Fiennes for playing William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love. Lately he has been playing significant religious characters. In 2003, Fiennes portrayed Martin Luther in Luther, and he will play Eric Liddell in The Last Race, which is scheduled for release later in 2016. The Last Race is a sequel of sorts to Chariots of Fire, and tells the story of Liddell’s missionary service in China and his eventual martyrdom.
In Risen, Fiennes plays the part of Clavius, a military tribune who serves in the Roman army in Judea during the days of Pontius Pilate. Pilate has charged him with the task of finding the body of Jesus of Nazareth, which has disappeared three days after his crucifixion. Fiennes portrays the hardbitten soldier with understated determination, which makes his performance very effective.
Hollywood finally realizes that the market for faith-based films is a lucrative vein to be mined. A least half of the previews shown before Risen have explicitly Christian themes. Generally the choices have been either theologically aberrant or even abhorrent (The Last Temptation of Christ, or The DaVinci Code as examples) or simply cheesy (God’s Not Dead comes to mind). With Risen, Hollywood gets it right. The sets, the acting, the production values are all top-notch. The story is original and entertaining. Most importantly, Risen faithfully tells the gospel message. This is a great Easter movie. Thumbs up for Risen–way, way up.