The disciple John tells the story of Jesus in the February 28-released film, “Son of God.” The film was adapted from History Channel’s recent miniseries, “The Bible.”
The film begins with an aged John (Sebastian Knapp) speaking the first few words of his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word… .”
His narration takes the audience back to Jesus’ presence in the beginning of time. Jesus was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with Moses when the Red Sea was parted, with the nation of Israel as they struggled for the Promised Land and with Abraham as he was chosen by God.
These moments, quickly flashing by on the screen, culminate with Jesus’ birth in the stable, as John speaks that Jesus came to dwell in the flesh.
When Mary calls her child Jesus, every wise man and shepherd visiting the stable kneels and bows down in reverence. This scene, as well as that of Peter (Darwin Shaw) and Jesus walking on water, inspire awe and wonder.
John’s narration skips ahead to the calling of the first disciples by Jesus (Diogo Morgado). This film excludes events in Jesus’ childhood, because it is, after all, being told from John’s viewpoint. And John likely didn’t have significant interaction with Jesus until he became a disciple.
The film seems to slightly sensationalize the words spoken in Jesus’ first meeting with Peter. Jesus tells Peter, “Just give me an hour and I’ll give you a whole new life.” Peter responds, “Who says I want one?”
And after Jesus has stirred the waters and overflowed Peter’s nets with fish, Jesus asks Peter to come with him, but Peter asks what they are going to do. Jesus responds, “Change the world.”
However, to both the village people and the high-and-mighty Pharisees in the film, Jesus and his disciples are changing the world. This is evident by the people’s facial expressions and physical reactions to Jesus. For the Pharisees and the Roman officials, Jesus is distastefully turning their world upside down, evidenced by their scrunched up faces and raised eyebrows. Jesus leaves them speechless.
But for the townspeople, it looks like Jesus is turning their world right side up. He calls Pharisees “hypocrites,” blesses the hated tax collectors and shows grace to an adulterous woman.
As Jesus shares the parable found in Luke 18 of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying, Matthew (Said Bey), one of the hated tax collectors, becomes overwhelmed by the grace Jesus is showing to him. His eyes flood with tears, and a look of confusion mixed with gratitude crosses his face.
As the film continues, the high priest, Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller), and a prominent Pharisee begin throwing around terms like “dangerous man,” “miracle man” and “fraud” in reference to Jesus.
It’s easy for the audience to see that the Roman officials are out of control. Scenes of Roman brutality repeatedly appear on the screen. But it’s also easy for the audience to see the chaos from the perspective of Roman officials and Pharisees: Jesus is its source. The film’s music definitely adds to the mounting tension throughout the film.
Still, the mystery lingers as to why the people began to hate Jesus as quickly as they began to follow him. This enigma is even shown through the flashback Jesus has as he carries his cross through an angry crowd of people – the very same crowd that welcomed him with shouts of “Hosanna!” and “Messiah!” not long before.
The film uses a flash forward as well as a flashback element to show the humanity of Jesus. The flash forward shows Jesus’ submission to God’s plan for his earthly life as God reveals it to him. At the Last Supper, Jesus foresees his crucifixion and betrayal by Judas (Joe Wredden).
After Judas’ betrayal in the film, Jesus isn’t just taken by the Roman officials. He’s kidnapped. Yes, the Roman officials essentially blind Jesus by pulling a black bag over his head and shoulders and drag him away, which becomes more of a comical interruption than a serious arrest.
But the seriousness of the film is quickly regained. Although the crucifixion isn’t as graphic as previous films, Jesus’ suffering is vividly displayed. It’s painful to watch as a barely recognizable Jesus hangs on the cross, blood dripping from his mouth.
The location for many scenes is set by wide, establishing shots. However, many times the wide shots lack focus or seem as though they are a still photo, rather than a recording of the city from afar. Special effects, such as a storm rolling in and Peter walking on water, are limited in how realistic they look.
But the acting is high quality. “Son of God” gives its audience a chance to understand the men and women of the Bible. People we’ve read about but never seen become people that really lived as the film gives us a glimpse into their lives. We see their dress and their expressions. We hear their voices speaking the familiar words we’ve read. We see their humanity.
In the end, the film as a whole leaves out more details than it adds to the familiar New Testament story. But what is captured in the 2-hour, 18-minute film does not hinder the Gospel presentation. It is evident that every frame of the film was inspired by the truth of the Bible, and that this film has been produced to take God’s Word to the lost.
And that, in the midst of today’s Hollywood culture, must get two thumbs up.
Anna Dembowski is a sophomore journalism major and assistant campus news editor for Cedars. She likes nearly anything that is the color purple and enjoys spelling the word “agathokakological.”