By Tom Quiner
Christian movies are often hit or miss.
Often, the writers and director are more intent on clubbing the audience over the head with their message than drawing us into a great story with a deft touch.
“Paul, Apostle of Christ,” succeeds in drawing us into the rich fabric of this complex man’s life without clubbing us over the head. The writer and director, Andrew Hyatt, approached Paul’s life much as Steven Spielberg handled his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln: by limiting the scope of the story.
In this case, we can focus on the last days and weeks of Paul’s life in Rome as he awaits his execution in a dark Roman prison.
Paul is portrayed superbly by James Faulkner who many (but not I) have seen on the popular “Game of Thrones.” He also had a small role in “Downton Abby.”
Here is what I liked about the film:
Luke the Evangelist plays a major role in the film. Luke is played by Jim Caviezel, who made his mark as Jesus in “Passion of the Christ.” Luke, like Paul, is a Biblical heavy weight. He not only authored the Gospel of Luke, but he traveled with Paul and wrote “The Acts of the Apostle.” In other words, most of the New Testament is written by these two giants of Christianity.
I found it refreshing to see a movie which featured the two together.
I also appreciated the way the struggle of the early Christians was depicted. With Paul’s incarceration, the responsibility of leadership fell upon a couple, Aquila (John Lynch) and his wife, Priscilla (Joanne Whalley) who disagreed on the proper course of action.
Aquila wanted Christians to leave Rome until Nero’s persecution of Christians ended.
Priscilla felt called to stay to help the poor and homeless devastated by the fire that gutted half of Rome.
Modern day Christians look back at early Christians as though they had all the answers, that everything was crystal clear to the first generation of believers. “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” shows that’s not necessarily so.
I also liked the way they showed how Paul’s past haunted him, leading to a beautiful resolution.
Spoiler Alert: stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie yet
The writer inserted a side plot which served the movie well. It involved the Roman prefect in charge of the prison, Mauritius (Olivier Martinez), whose daughter was dying of an apparently incurable disease of some sort.
Mauritius made regular sacrifices to the Roman gods to no avail. His wife was angry with him, blaming him for his daughter’s infirmity for being too friendly with Paul.
I expected him to call on Paul or Luke to cure the girl. It happens, but not in the way anyone sees coming. Well done, Andrew Hyatt!
Audiences love the movie on Rotten Tomatoes at the same time the critics don’t.
I’m glad I saw it. I was moved by “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” and recommend it.