I begin this review with a disclaimer—I don't generally like movies that are based on the Bible. There are exceptions like The Ten Commandments or The Passion of the Christ. I tend to view these movies with my scholarly glasses firmly planted on my face. Thus I compare the movie to the biblical text, and what movie can live up to the beauty, genius, and truth of the biblical text?
Paul, Apostle of Christ is not based on the biblical text. It is based on historical tradition that comes after the final events of the Book of Acts. Thus, I was able to take off my scholarly glasses and wear my ordinary sit-back-and-enjoy-the-movie glasses. And I did enjoy the movie. And it inspired me was well. That combination of enjoyment and inspiration is rare.
On February 13th, as a pre-Valentines Day date, my wife and I went to see a preview of the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ. Perhaps the film is misnamed? Perhaps it should be called, Luke and Paul, Followers of Jesus because the movie equally highlights the story of Luke and his partnership in the gospel with Paul, as it does Paul's life.
The movie begins with Luke entering the city of Rome after the Emperor Nero torches over half the city in order to rebuild certain districts. Nero blames Christians for igniting the fire and then goes on to order the persecution of Christians.
Roman soldiers stake Christians to crosses, douse them with oil, and set them on fire, creating Roman candles which light the streets of Rome at night. The intense persecution of Christians is a major theme in the movie. The film is dedicated to persecuted Christians around the world.
The setting of the Roman persecution of Christians gives an eerie and gruesome tone to the film. It also gives the movie a deserved PG-13 rating for its "Disturbing Images and Some Violent Content."
Warning: there are many brutal and gory scenes in the movie. Some of the images stay with you long after you leave the theatre. But in my opinion, that's a good thing. The Bible is at least PG-13 in its content. The history of the persecution of the early Christians should make a person wince.
Before you show the movie to a general church audience, you should consider the depiction of violence in the film and share with your audience that the movie was not made for a young people or for the faint of heart.
The film is distributed by Sony Pictures and has a March 23rd release date (just in time for Easter).
I appreciated the acting in the movie. The actors were high quality actors. James Caviezel, who is known for his role as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ plays Luke. Caviezel also played Reese, a highly trained mercenary, in the television series Person of Interest. In this film I kept waiting for Caviezel to turn into Reese and rid the streets of the Roman soldiers, but that never happened. Instead, as Luke, Mr. Caviezel struggled with the plight of his brothers and sisters as they prayed to stay faithful in the midst of hardship and persecution.
A major theme of the film is how evil cannot be resisted with evil. That's not the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is the way of love. This is a message the church today needs to hear and reflect on.