Monday, October 1, 2012

Wholly Good: "Jesus" (2000)

Although reviled by some and praised by others, this made for television mini-series works in getting the Christian message across while showing us a new side to the Savior.

Jeremy Sisto is excellent as a vulnerable Jesus, who was not immediately enlightened as to how to tell those around him that he was the Son of God. Making him a little more human shows us that if Jesus can be this way, we should find no problem in following what he says. In biblical epics of old, Jesus was a stoic stone faced prophet, but here he smiles and delights in others' happiness.

Something other films have in common is the film makers lack of characterization of the apostles. Some stand out, some are glossed over (like in the Bible), but director Roger Young is able to give us a sense of Jesus' story without overwhelming the audience with every single event in the gospel.

Gary Oldman is without a doubt the best portrayer of Pontius Pilate. He does not settle for a mere cameo, but he has a strong supporting part that he instantly makes his own. Debra Messing and G.W. Bailey make you forget "Will & Grace" and "Police Academy," respectively, playing Mary Magdalene and a Roman citizen. Jacqueline Bisset (Jacqueline Bisset?) is Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also does a fantastic job. Kudos to Jeroen Krabbe as Satan, who tempts Jesus while wearing modern dress, and shows how men take Jesus' name while killing their fellow man. The scenes set during the Crusades and World War I are quite a change from the norm, and quite effective.

I had wished that Debra Messing had been given more to do as the saved prostitute. Her character stands on the sidelines and struggles internally, but there is no conversion moment that gives us something to latch on to. Messing is good here, but the screenwriter does not do enough with her.

Young's direction is epic in scope, with fantastic locations, and the pace is very brisk for an almost three hour film. Jesus' life as a child in wisely shown in flashback, and everyone should be congratulated for bringing a familiar story and putting a fresh twist on it. I recommend this highly. (* * * * *) out of five stars.