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New movie 'Resurrection' out just in time for Easter

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Viewers will get an early Easter treat when "Resurrection" (MGM), the latest project from executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, becomes available on the streaming service Discovery+ March 27.

Though its tone is sometimes overheated, this is a handsomely done dramatization of the most essential period in human history.

The narrative covers the death, rising and ascension of Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace) as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Writer Simon Block and director Ciaran Donnelly examine the impact of these events both on the followers of Jesus and on his opponents.

Prominent among the former are the steadfast Virgin Mary (Greta Scacchi), volatile St. Peter (Adam Levy) and even-keeled St. John (Babou Ceesay). At the head of the latter faction stand brutal Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Vincent Regan) and Caiaphas (Richard Coyle), the unscrupulous Jewish high priest.

Catholics will appreciate the centrality of the Blessed Mother, who, in addition, is alone in displaying unwavering faith that Jesus' prophecy of his return from the dead will be fulfilled. Similarly, the depiction of Peter as the unquestioned leader of the Apostles and of the whole nascent Christian community is in keeping with the church's theology.

Yet, while affirming Jesus as Messiah and Lord, Block's script seems to skirt around his divinity, even altering scriptural quotations to do so. Thus, upon seeing the risen Jesus, St. Thomas exclaims, "My Lord!" This is a significant editing of his full declaration of faith, recorded in the Gospel of John: "My Lord and my God!"

In the later scene during which Jesus blots out the guilt of Peter's triple denial by extracting from him three assertions of his love for Jesus, there is an equally telling excision of Peter's words "Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you." Perhaps these cuts were undertaken to avoid giving offense to non-Christians. But they will strike believers in Jesus' dual nature as jarring.

This theological defect aside, "Resurrection" is a generally fine treatment of its sacred subject.

Characters occasionally work themselves up to a seemingly excessive state of intensity, as though the cast felt the need to emphasize the cosmic stakes at play. And some of the special effects -- the return of the rush of wind that heralded the initial descent of the Holy Spirit is used to show the inspiration given to Peter and John at a vital later moment -- can be questioned. But these are small considerations.

The movie is suitable for teens and may give them an easy catechetical lesson. But its graphic depiction of the Crucifixion, while presumably accurate, makes it too upsetting for children.

The film contains a torturous execution with considerable gore. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.    

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021