Film Review: Paul, Apostle Of Christ

Paul Apostle of Christ takes audiences back to the roots of the faith by focusing on its most prolific apostolic teacher and organizer, Saul/Paul of Tarsus.

At a time of profound persecution in Rome, the leader of the nascent Christian community sits in prison, falsely accused by Nero of burning down half of the city. His friend and biographer Luke arrives to see what he can do for Paul and for the Christians hiding for their lives in the city. The Christian community is torn between whether to leave Rome or to stay and witness to the devastation, and whether to suffer for Christ or to retaliate.

 

The Easter season brings not one but three prominent releases of Christian films. I Can Only Imagine, a biopic based on the wildly popular Christian song of the same title, surprised observers with a $17 million opening weekend and added another $21 million since. Later this week, the next entry in the God’s Not Dead franchise, Light in the Darkness, opens with John Corbett and Tatum O’Neal in the cast.  Both of these cover modern-day dilemmas facing Christians, but Paul Apostle of Christ takes audiences back to the roots of the faith by focusing on its most prolific apostolic teacher and organizer, Saul/Paul of Tarsus. In doing so, it may set a standard to which other Christian films should aspire, even if it might end up overlooked in the Holy Week mix.

Warning: Slight spoilers included.

At a time of profound persecution in Rome, the leader of the nascent Christian community sits in prison, falsely accused by Nero of burning down half of the city. His friend and biographer Luke arrives to see what he can do for Paul and for the Christians hiding for their lives in the city. The Christian community is torn between whether to leave Rome or to stay and witness to the devastation, and whether to suffer for Christ or to retaliate.

That sense of crisis is palpable throughout most of the film.  When Luke (Jim Caviezel) arrives, they want to him to provide leadership — more on that in a moment — and Luke finds his way into the prison to talk with Paul (James Faulkner). He begins writing down Paul’s observations, which Luke will later use to write Acts of the Apostles, and they both come into contact with a Roman prison warden (Olivier Martinez) who faces a life-and-death crisis in his own family. Other than a few gentle moments between Paul and Luke, and a later scene between Paul and his warden, the entire film effectively paints Christianity as an enterprise on a knife’s edge, about to fall into despair and destruction.

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