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Recycling appears to be catching on in Hollywood. For the environmentally minded that seems like a good idea—until you realize it is storylines we are talking about. And in the case of Son of God, it’s actual film footage.
Anyone who saw the History Channel’s The Bible: The Epic Mini Series that aired in March of 2013 has already seen much of this movie. But while the miniseries attempted to retell Biblical events from cover to cover, Son of God focuses on the birth, life and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
It’s the kind of movie that draws lines in the sand before people even buy tickets. Some Christians may feel an obligation to like it. Others, without religious attachments, may dismiss it before even giving it a chance. Some won’t pay for something they’ve already seen on TV or own on DVD. Others will want the theatrical experience. And then there will be the inevitable comparisons with other film depictions of Jesus. Suffice it to say this is not The Passion of the Christ.
The film begins with a quick review of Old Testament stories like the parting of the Red Sea, Noah (who is the title subject of another movie releasing in 2014, with Russell Crowe in the lead) and David and Goliath. It then segues into the New Testament with the birth of Jesus in a lowly stable, skips a few decades and then resumes with the calling of the apostles Peter (Darwin Shaw), John (Sebastian Knapp), Matthew (Said Bey) and others.
For anyone familiar with the Bible, there won’t be any surprises. The film, a project of reality TV producer Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, sticks closely to the book it is based on. The cast is made up largely of lesser-known actors including Diogo Morgado as Jesus, Adrian Schiller as the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and Greg Hicks as Pilate. Both Schiller and Hicks give convincing portrayals of men motivated by politics, whether in the Jewish temple or Roman palace.
Morgado’s portrayal of Christ is much gentler than many we’ve seen on screen. That lack of passion, particularly when he overturns the moneychangers’ tables in the temple, may be a problem for some viewers who want a more emotionally wrought character. (Frankly I’ve had enough tortured protagonists for a while.) And although Morgado may not offer the most compelling depiction of Jesus, this film rehearses the events of his life and ministry with stunning visuals of the landscape and a sense of the time. (The actors’ teeth may be a little too white, but there is grit on their faces and under their fingernails.)
While many scenes of the miracles could easily be shown in a Sunday School class, the depiction of Jesus’ arrest, scourging and crucifixion become increasingly graphic and gruesome. His body is covered with bloody lacerations after a lashing. Blood oozes from his mouth, and courses down his face from cuts caused by the crown of thorns. Other characters are beaten, bruised and stabbed with swords. Streaks of red are seen on the wall of a prison. Roman soldiers also employ brutal tactics to quell uprisings among the Jewish populace.
Will the Son of God make a believer out of skeptics and cynics? Likely not. However for Christians this movie is a recognition that the religiously minded go to movies too. And in an era when we seem bent on worshipping flawed heroes, it can be a spiritual respite to retell the story of one who spent his life preaching peace and performing miracles.
Son of God is rated PG-13: for intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence.
Director: Christopher Spencer
Cast: Roma Downey, Diogo Morgado, Louise Delamere, Amber Rose Revah
Studio: 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Website: Official site for Son of God.