4 Stars — Inspiring
In retelling the biblical stories, every artist must make theological as well as artistic choices. These choices reflect in part God's story, but they also reveal the hearts and thoughts of the individual storytellers. This is not only true of every sermon delivered in every church, but it is also true of every film shown in which the biblical stories are portrayed.
In Christopher Spencer's film Son of God, we experience a telling of the story of Jesus based primarily on the Gospel According to John with a hint of the Revelation of John. This particular telling is formed by Spencer as well as three writers who assist him — Richard Bedser, Colin Swash and Nic Young — and it reveals a bias towards a Roman Catholic version of Jesus' life.
Using some scenes and referring directly to the History channel's hit miniseries The Bible, the uneven telling of the tale and low-budget special effects do not lessen the amazing message of the incarnate Son of God.
Narrating the story is John, who is in exile on Patmos as the film begins with the prologue of the Gospel of John and ends with the revelation of Jesus to John with His wonderful proclamation that, "I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end."
Playing the part of Jesus is the appropriately named Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, whose last name means "first-born." Perhaps the most difficult person in all of history to portray, Morgado's portrayal is one with subtle charm and powerful presence. The same is true of Roma Downey, who reveals the deep faith, knowledge and love needed to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. As both a producer of the film and a devout believer herself, it is easy to see her love for God.
Also of primary importance in the story are the apostles John (Sebastian Knapp), Peter (Darwin Shaw), Judas (Joe Wredden) and Thomas (Matthew Gravelle), with Mary Magdalene (Amber Rose Revah) representing the women who became followers of Jesus along with the men.
The conflicts in Jesus' life come from two sources, both of whom are portrayed with more depth than often seen in Christian cinema. Pilate (Greg Hicks) displays historically appropriate indifference to the lives of his subjects as the Roman governor, and the High Priest Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller) is sincere yet manipulative in his attempt to protect his religion and his nation.
There is no story that reflects the depth of the meaning of life as does the story of Jesus and His divine identity. Though the telling of His story may vary, the basic truth breaks through in ways that require a response by all who hear it. It is this response that will "change the world" as Jesus charges His disciples to do on His behalf.
» It is difficult to imagine what Mary experienced as she held Jesus in her arms at his birth as well as at His death. What do you think she thought about Jesus in the years between those two events? Why do you answer as you do?
» It is clear that the religious and political leaders conspired together to kill an innocent man. Why do you think it takes both religion and government to conspire to do something truly evil? How can we follow Jesus without the greed and corruption that turned His house into a den of thieves and without the violence and scheming that can turn a nation into a brutal destroyer?
» The warning that his wife gave Pilate about Jesus did not stop Pilate from killing Him. Why do you think Pilate did not heed the warning? Would you have listened if you had been Pilate? Why or why not?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.