Distribution Service: Discovery+
MPAA Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
USCCB Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
Reel Rating: 3 out 5 reels
The Bible was a History Channel production that premiered to great acclaim in 2013, even receiving an Emmy nomination for Best Miniseries. To capitalize on its success, the latter episodes on the Gospels were edited into the feature film Son of God, which was…decent.
Just in time for Easter 2021 is Resurrection, also created by the producers of The Bible. And, yet again, not a wholly original production but one edited from the first few episodes of the television series A.D. The Bible Continues, a thematic sequel to Son of God that came out in 2015. That series was excellent, and I sincerely wished it had more than one season. As a stand-alone film, Resurrection is, again, decent. Yet six years after AD premiered, this really seems like remix rather than a fully realized production. Hopefully, this isn’t a trend for Roma Downey (but I fear it may be).
The film begins with the trial of Jesus, with the betrayal of Peter (Adam Levy) prominently featured. It then quickly skims through his crucifixion and death, slowing down again after his burial in the stone tomb. The high priest Caiaphas (Richard Coyle), worried about Jesus’ prophecy of resurrection, convinces the Roman governor Pontus Pilate (Vincent Reagan) to post guards outside to prevent Jesus’ disciples from stealing the body and creating a hoax. Of course, even Roman phalanx cannot stop the power of God, and the tomb is found empty on the third day. The disciples go through many emotions – doubt, joy, grief, anxiety, despair, anticipation – in the days that follow, until the wondrous truth, along with their new vocation, is revealed.
The story told in Resurrection is certainly not original, so its strength lies in the performances, which are fortunately stellar. Coyle and Reagan are especially good as Caiaphas and Pilate. Caiaphas is often seen as a slimy hypocrite, but Coyle portrays him as a reluctant politician who must protect the Jewish religion by placating the Romans. As a priest who genuinely loves his faith and people, this is a role that he finds frustrating; he would much rather be in the Temple praying than mitigating quarreling factions.
Coyle, meanwhile, upends the common stereotype of Pilate as a sort of Stoic philosopher, taking the more historically accurate mannerism of a ruthless enforcer of Roman power. He despises the Jewish people and even willingly kills his own men on a whim. He could care less “what truth is.”
Peter is an avatar for the audience, a man who loved Jesus but was overwhelmed with doubt and worry. He immediately expresses pain for his sin and wishes he could undo his sins and betrayal. He also sincerely wants to believe Jesus’ promise but won’t do it without evidence. Given the second chance that every man hopes for, he makes good on his repentance and ends the film boldly spreading the Gospel.
Since the film was based on a television series, the ending feels quite odd. Peter gives a speech, not found in the Bible (and which is a little problematic); the film then closes with images of Christian devotion throughout the world, including places marked by heavy persecution. It does not work well in terms of the narrative but is rather powerful in its thematic grandeur. The Gospel message, which started with just a few men, is now known in all corners of the globe. Yet to someone who has never seen A.D., Resurrection no doubt will leave a strong impression. The acting is fantastic and the redemptive message clear. It will do for now, at least until Mel Gibson’s Resurrection movie gets finished.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!