By Andrew Halloway
There couldn't be a much more appropriate film to hit the cinema screens at Easter.
Risen stars Joseph Fiennes and is directed by Kevin Reynolds – whose past blockbusters include Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld.
It imagines what happened when rumours of Jesus of Nazareth's return to life after being crucified spread like wildfire in Jerusalem. Fiennes plays Roman soldier Clavius, assigned by Pontius Pilate to quell the rumours and avoid an uprising by disproving the resurrection.
"Risen is a gripping story of a top Roman official ordered to prove Jesus' resurrection was a hoax by finding the body and crushing his few but passionate followers," says Rich Peluso, AFFIRM Films senior vice president.
Clavius has a vested interest in debunking the resurrection, as he was in charge of the crucifixion and the sealing of Jesus' tomb – so his neck is on the line. He begins his task as a sceptic, but starts to worry that Jesus really is alive.
Clavius is assisted by Lucius, portrayed by Tom Felton – known to Harry Potter fans for his role as Draco Malfoy.
"This is pure cinema," says Shakespeare In Love star Fiennes. "I am foremost a lover of stories. The Bible is the most extraordinarily rich source of narratives, featuring the most beautiful stories ever written or handed down."
It has been rumoured that Hollywood has tried to sweep Risen under the carpet because it is a "faithful scriptural treatment of the story." Sticking to the Bible's script doesn't go down well in movieland, where producers want a 'new angle' or 'modern take' – as in Russell Crowe's Noah.
One source even claims that a film studio tried to purchase the rights just to ensure it was never released. After ten years, it was finally picked up by AFFIRM – an arm of Sony Pictures.
Risen was released on 18 February in Australia.•