Didactic, melodramatic yet earnest – “Son of God” is primarily targeted at the devout Christians and those who enjoy religious tales. But, as a standalone film, it didn’t quite stir me up.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Standing in 21st century, where faith in everything is eroding at a meteoric pace, the courage to make a puritan religious movie is a bold and somewhat audacious idea. Hence, the fact that director Christopher Spencer decided to helm this movie is laudable. Thinking about it the other way, it’s also a smart move given the fact that the exponential rise in crimes across the world may also necessitate the demand for films reinstating man’s faith in goodness.
Yet, the fact that Spencer is primarily a documentary film-maker becomes way too evident throughout the movie. The narrative keeps dragging endlessly at places with the focus on telling the audience what happened in Jesus’ life rather than making a film out of it.
The TVC styled beginning with Noah’s ark or Abraham’s tale, with Apostle John’s monologue running as voiceover, sets the tale for this sermonising movie. The monologue followed by an unnecessary scene of Pontius Pilate’s cruelty – unnecessary because it is used only to create the demand for a good power like Jesus and contradicts Pontius’ behaviour later.
The next thing that seemed odd to me was why Jesus Christ would have to exhibit his magical powers to win over his naysayers or other followers. Why does he need to turn a fishless river into one filled with fish or turn a dead man alive with a kiss on the head or enable a cripple to walk by a touch on the foot? Somehow, the idea of a man using his gifted powers to convince people about his thoughts doesn’t ring true to me, despite the fact that whatever the man said maybe valid.
What still interests me is the politics of religion. No one is ignorant of the story that Jesus Christ antagonised the Jews because of which he (rather He) is killed. Yet, and though the Jews are portrayed in somewhat negative light, the way the film shows the insecurity of the Rabbis (though ironically Jesus is addressed as Rabbi by many a character) when they witness the increasing followership of Christ is engaging. The way Pontius is convinced to punish Jesus for no apparent reason and how the ostensible cruel ruler is astonished when the crowd asks him to release Barabbas – the convicted murderer piqued my interest. It is the same Pontius who orders a sign reading “The King of the Jews” be attached to Jesus’ cross. Irony again, because Jesus was crucified for an act of blasphemy against Judaism. But such moments are too few and far between. It is where I lamented that the filmmaker should have focussed on highlighting such aspects rather than just chronicling Christ’s life.
The best-crafted scene is possibly Christ’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, which follows immediately after the iconic Last Supper. However, contrary to Leonardo Da Vinci’s extremely popular painting, Christopher Spencer’s film does not have Mary Magdalene sitting to the right of Jesus Christ, though she is portrayed as an active member of His group. Playing safe? Maybe.
On the contrary, the crucifixion scenes don’t make you shiver as much as they should. The slow motion shots seem contrived and you can barely feel your eyes moisten at the plight of the holy man. Yes, the film is decently shot and though I almost chuckled at the helicopter shot intro of Jesus, the production design and the colour tone justify the setting and backdrop. However, I had problems with the overt background music at places, which like in most Bollywood movies, seems trying to convey the emotion the film fails to.
The cast delivers decent performances. The main focus however remains Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado’s act as the lord. His soothing presence with the hint of impish smile and yet mostly pained eyes is one of the better aspects of the film. Though he seems a bit weak in some of the intense scenes, he pretty much does justice to his casting.
All in all, if you are religious and wouldn’t be startled by a scene where the protagonist comes walking on a turbulent sea, it maybe a good experience. But as a piece of cinema, “Son of God” failed me. It would possibly suit better as the part of History Channel’s ten-hour miniseries The Bible. I don’t intend to offend any religion or religious views but sermons mostly don’t make great films, great analyses do.