Friday, April 6, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW: Paul, Apostle of Christ

MOVIE REVIEW
PAUL
Apostle of Christ
Affirm Films
(PG-13 / 1 hr 48 min)
__________________________

We expected to have the joint all
to ourselves — just me and my gal,
with our econo-sized concession
comboin-hand. I mean, c'mon
now, how many people in today's
super-sophisticated iUniverse are
really gonna flock to a flick that
 depicts the final days in the life
of a withering, imprisoned biblical
figure? But oh crap, dude — the
theater was packed — on a week-
night  and during Spring Break!
__________________________

The older I get, the shorter it becomes — the list of mortals who I truly admire. Let's see, there's Ronald Reagan, Alice Cooper, my cousin Dorothy, the "special needs" kid down the street and   Apostle Paul. I'm sure there are a few others, but I think you get where I'm going here.

So, what is it about Paul that makes him so fascinating and inspiring that his life warrants a big-screen production nearly 2,000 years following his death? Well, allow me to break it down.

Next to Jesus, Paul's story arguably is the most compelling of any biblical figure. He wasn't God. He wasn't even an earthly king. He was an Everyman of his day — sorta. As Saul of Tarsus (his birth name), he was known (and feared) far and wide during the first half of his life as a powerful, ruthless Jewish kingpin with a notorious reputation for persecuting and even murdering Christians.

But one day, as Saul traveled with his cronies from Jerusalem while on a mission to arrest and / or kill Christians in Damascus, he was struck down by a light from heaven. At that point he heard the voice of Jesus, calling him out. “Why are you persecuting me?” Now blinded, Saul was led to Damascus by his motley crew, where he remained — blind for three days. To cut to the chase, when his sight finally was restored by a fellow named Ananias, Saul experienced one of, if not THE most amazing spiritual transformations ever recorded. 

Jim Caviezel (L) and James Faulkner (R) deliver
impressive performances as Luke and Paul.
Following three years of prayerful study, Saul reemerged as Paul. No longer an enemy to believers, Paul dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the land. But oddly, Paul soon experienced the same persecution that he once dealt to others — imprisonment, beatings and the like. Yet he remained diligent in "fighting the good fight" until his dying day.

And that's what makes his story so inspiring. If a despicable character like Saul was worthy of grace and forgiveness, and he could be transformed into "Paul" — a dedicated Christ-follower filled with love and compassion, how much hope is there for the rest of us? Listen, I've done A LOT of regrettable, filthy stuff in my life, but I never killed anybody. Get it?

Hmm — a former cruel villain who suddenly peddles and practices grace, forgiveness, kindness, love and compassion. Heck, even for the "smart" people who dismiss the Bible as a mere fairy tale, that's not just good stuff, that's GREAT stuff! And as a staunch, Bible-believing Jesus-follower, I was "all in" when I heard that part of Paul's story now was playing out at my local cineplex. "Two adult tickets to Paul, Apostle of Christ, please!" SPOILER ALERT: I don't cast spoilers.

Oliver Martinez as Roman jailer, Mauritius.
Written and directed by Andrew Hyatt, the film picks up during Paul's final days while being held in a Roman prison. No stranger to persecution by this point in his life, Paul had been sentenced to death by Emperor Nero. His crime? A bogus charge of being a threat to the Roman Empire.

Simply put, in 67 AD, Rome was a tough place to be if you were a Christian. In fact, Christ-followers were forced to live in secrecy. Upon hearing of Paul's imprisonment, he's visited frequently by Luke, his longtime confidant and skilled Greek physician. And it was during those covert late-night meetings when Paul dictated his final words to Luke — writings that ultimately would be revealed throughout the New Testament.

Portrayed famously by James Faulkner, Paul appears much as many might expect — broken down, weary and soft-spoken. Played convincingly by Jim Caviezel, the younger and more virile Luke also soon finds himself as a guest of the Roman penal system. During their joint incarceration experience, we get a glimpse of the unique bond of friendship between the two men. Paul further reveals a dry sense of humor as well as an ongoing battle with his own inner demons. But even as the young Christians begin to take up arms in an effort to avenge the crimes committed against their people by the Romans, Paul remains resolute, calling for peace, love and grace.

As a theology graduate, I give Paul, Apostle of Christ high marks for what I consider biblical accuracy. However, I could easily have sat through an additional hour's worth of the various character's backstories. And as a guy who simply likes to "keep it real," I also offer the film mad props for feeling legit — world-class performances from an impeccable cast, realistic-looking sets, authentic wardrobe and no detectable silly wigs.

In sum, Paul, Apostle of Christ is a riveting, epic piece of work — one that I recommend, highly.

-Christopher Long
(April 2018)
Score the latest books from author
Christopher Long NOW on Amazon!

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C'MON! -
(2012)

- SUPERSTAR -
(Coming April 7, 2019)

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