4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital copy, 2016, PG-13 for Biblical violence including some disturbing images; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with the Aiello brothers – Patrick the producer and Paul the writer
THE SIMILARITIES are striking.
Richard Burton and Joseph Fiennes are both Shakespearian-trained British actors, and both have played fictional Roman military tribunes stationed in the wasteland of 33 A.D. Judaea.
Burton was cast as Marcellus in the sword-and-sandal epic, "The Robe" (1953). Based on the bestseller by Lloyd C. Douglas, it was the first film made in CinemaScope. Marcellus is ordered by Pontius Pilate to oversee the crucifixion of Christ. Like other Biblical epics of the time, it was an passionate endorsement of Christianity.
Fiennes plays Clavius in the latest faith-based film "Risen." Like Marcellus, he finds himself at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion of the Nazarene. Cliff Curtis plays Jesus, called Yeshua here, the Hebrew name used throughout "Risen."
Clavius is Pilate's (Peter Firth) right-hand man. The tribune has just returned from a brutal battle with Judean zealots led by Barabbas. Before he can wash the blood from his face, he's ordered back outside the Jerusalem walls, where the crucifixion of Yeshua and two others is already underway. Pilate wants to shorten the Nazarene's suffering by breaking his legs, which ends breathing quickly when nailed to a cross. But, when Clavius arrives, Yeshua has already said his final words: "It is finished." He is dead. Clavius orders that the legs of the other two men be broken and that Yeshua be speared to confirm death.
Co-writer/director Kevin Reynolds ("Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "The Count of Monte Cristo") helms this awe-inspiring film. Told through the eyes of the tribune, a non-believer, it avoids a gospel-centric storyline, Rich Peluso, Senior Vice President of Sony's Affirm Films says in the "Script to Screen" featurette. Peluso orchestrated the film's release during Lent, grossing a modest $46 million worldwide. Now it's available on Sony Blu-ray, DVD and the new 4K Ultra HD format.
Traditional Biblical films during the heyday of the '50s and '60s – "Ben Hur" and "King of Kings" – focused on the life of Jesus, ending at the crucifixion. "Risen" covers the launching point, turning the Resurrection into a detective story. "When the military leaders and religious leaders woke up that Sunday morning and the body of Jesus was missing, it was a mystery to them," Peluso says.
Pilate unleashes a manhunt charging Clavius and his new aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), to find the body at all costs, even to unearthing every dead body from the past week. "Without a corpse to prove him dead, we have a potential Messiah," Pilate says. Jewish High Priest Caiaphas (Stephen Greif) also pressures the tribune; he believes Yeshua's disciples have stolen the body to support the rebirth. Pilate simply wants order; he's expecting a visit from Emperor Tiberius Caesar any day.
Fiennes gives a believable, low-key performance as Clavius. "There's no greater kind of narrative than a mystery, the mystery of Christ. And what I love is that we embraced it, we accepted it, and we didn't try to challenge or reinvent it," he says in the making-of featurette.
The Sea of Galilee sequence in the third act is the story's turning point. That's where the emotional impact and spiritual authority of Yeshua and his disciples is revealed – especially during the commissioning of Peter (Stewart Scudamore) and the others to carry God's message to the ends of the earth.
Peluso involved pastors, historians and people he trusted to make sure the film got the balance of mystery and spirituality right. "I would never say 'Risen' is a Biblically-based story, it's scripturally harmonious. The elements of the story where it touches Scripture are true to the word."
It's no surprise Sony selected "Risen" as its second new release in 4K Ultra HD disc. The film has an epic cinematic feel from cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore, who used a 2.8K digital camera in the mountains and desert of Spain and Malta, which subbed for Judea and Galilee. It was edited and mastered in 2K, but upconverted to 4K for this presentation. The bump in resolution over Blu-ray is most evident in the wide shots, where depth and richness from the expanded high-tech HDR (High Dynamic Range) is most apparent. Scenes look brighter, with intense highlights and deeper blacks. The overall contrast level is higher, and colors also more natural and realistic.
The 4K disc and iTunes also includes the Dolby Atmos track, with its expanded height sounds most evident in the opening battle scenes. The Blu-ray includes the Dolby TrueHD track.
Commentary from the brothers Aiello, producer Patrick and writer Paul, is honest and detailed giving plenty of insider stories and the genesis of the project.
For a person or family of faith, "Risen" is a no brainier purchase. Others should treat themselves to the story of one of mankind's greatest mysteries.
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer