Risen (2016) is a remarkable film directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, a Roman tribune, asked by his friend Pontius Pilate to investigate the disappearance of the body of the crucified Nazarene, Yeshua. Clavius saw him die, and in fact was the one who ordered he be speared rather than have his legs broken.
Pilate (played by Peter Firth) is an embittered old bureaucrat, nagged by Caiaphas the chief rabbi, bothered at how he was pressurised into having Yeshua crucified, and most of all determined to have Jerusalem looking good for the upcoming visit of the Emperor Tiberius. Clavius, too, is battle-hardened and cynical, and is keen that his new protégé, Lucius (played by Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), should be as tough as he is. But their investigation is constantly confusing: two soldiers, supposed to be guarding the tomb, have been bribed by the rabbis to say that they saw zealots stealing the body, but then confess to a much more remarkable story of the stone bursting from the entrance, the sun blazing out of the tomb. Are they mad? Mary Magdalene, well known to the soldiers, tells strange stories of love and forgiveness, and she and anyone else they question are completely unafraid of any threatened punishments. At last Clavius sees Yeshua with his followers and recognises him as the man he saw dead on the cross. He is stunned, and follows the disciples as they head back to Galilee for a final meeting with Yeshua.
This is a realistic-looking film, full of gore and flies and nasty corpses but not completely horrific. There’s a good deal of humour with Pilate, but plenty to think about, too, as the cynical tribune comes up against something, and someone, he cannot begin to explain, and watches the disciples’ reactions to the risen Yeshua. Something well worth watching, even if it’s just for the little detail of Barabbas and his unflinching faith, or Pilate washing his hands again.