killingjesusWhat I Come To Do Is Now Done
Killing Jesus
Stars: Haaz Sleiman (Jesus), Stephen Moyer (Pilate), Rufus Sewell (Caiaphas), Emmanuelle Chriqui(Herodias), John Rhys-Davies (Annas), Eoin Macken (Herod Antipas), Abhin Galeya (John the Baptist), Alexis Rodney (Simon/Peter), Joe Doyle (Judas), Chris Ryman (Malchus), Klara Issova (Mary Magdalene), Yousef Sweid (Joseph), July Namir (Young Mary), Stephanie Leonidas (Salome), Tamsin Egerton (Claudia) and Kelsey Grammar (Herod).
Director: Christopher Menaul
Scriptwriters: Walon Green, based on the book by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
Composer: Trevor Morris
Cinematographer: Ousama Rawi
National Geographic Channel/Scott Free Production
Rating: Not rated but could be a strong PG 13 or R rating for violence
Running Length: 133 minutes
I once attended a play that was a condensed version of Shakespeare’s plays and  two hours in length. It was done with humor. In the serious “Killing Jesus,” blink and you will have missed a few weeks/months/years. This is a well wrought production and based on a novel. There are parts of familiar Scripture that aren't here and some added sections to enhance this story. An example being Elizabeth and perhaps, son, John, going to Egypt, too, to escape Herod’s wrath at young children. The main characters as in the New Testament are here, besides Jesus, there is John the Baptist, some of the disciples, Herod/Herodias/Antipas/Salome, Judas, Malchus, Caiaphas/Annas and Pontius Pilate/Claudia (his wife.) Within this main group, the film covers ground with expediency and gives the audience a few points to ponder. The film is almost as a documentary in which facts are given and showing ways in which they could be interpreted without opinion. 
The film begins in Herod’s palace where he is an older man and worried about a prophecy that someone shall take his throne. Herod and the rest of the Roman hierarchy spar with the Jewish Priests as to who is going to out-maneuver who and thus, they co-exist. Enter the Magi and then the story follows Biblical lines from fleeing this area to Egypt, and then back and on to Jesus adulthood where Herod Antipas is now the ruler in Galilee and Pontius Pilate is there from Rome. The scene is set for Jesus preaching and teaching and gathering of disciples to begin. Miracles are present and a longer time is given to John the Baptist and his baptisms. The people have difficulty recognizing a leader, as first there is John, and then Jesus. When Herod Antipas takes care of one, the other grows in popularity. This is also what bothers the High Priests as they---and the Romans---try to figure out a way to do away with Jesus without causing chaos. Enter Judas.
The actor portraying Judas (Joe Doyle) stands out in a crowd with sad, dark eyes and he seems confused at what direction to go with his life. We know his choice. The actor playing Jesus, Haaz Sleiman, wears plain, peasant clothing, speaks slowly and is sometimes teased by the Romans as having the speech pattern of a peasant. His physical scenes are tender, dramatic and tense. Stephen Moyer is a Pontius Pilate on the rise, with a wife who enjoys the riches of rule. Moyer commands his scenes as does Eoin Macken as Herod Antipas, but when they are with Rufus Sewell (Caiaphas) it is a game of wits as one side wants Jesus put to death and the other side doesn't want to do it. The game of wits continues with the ladies as Herodias (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and her daughter, Salome (Stephanie Leonidas) goad Antipas, and Pilate’s wife, Claudia (Tamsin Egerton) questions his ambition. All this against the poverty of the region in which clothing is rough-woven fabric, sandals are shabby leather and food is simple fare. Unfair prices yes, that is part of the problem, too. Leaders are faulty and greedy, hope is something in the back of the mind and the desert country doesn't grow crops well.  What is of abundance are fish in the larger lakes in the area and this has something to do with the story, too. Today, you could substitute “oil” for fish and lakes and you have the problems of the 20th and 21st century.
What I liked about this production of “Killing Jesus” is that the script makes a point in a short period of time as to the influence of Jesus then. Brutality of the time is there, either by implication or depicted. Jesus' speech of how to pray (as we call it now, “The Lord’s Prayer,”) is eloquent. The gentleness of forgiveness and the anger for those selling within the Temple courtyard is shown.  There is Caiaphas' confusion as to who Jesus really is and Judas' confusion as to who he, Judas, really is.
The Last Supper is touching as is the scene after Jesus dies, in which a shroud and tomb are provided. The shroud is mentioned  more than once, and I wonder if the next film will be on The Shroud. Production values are good as well as costumes, cinematography (great use of shadows) and music. The end of the film tells what happened to many of the disciples as they traveled through countries, preaching and teaching. 2000 years later, and we are still discussing the happenings of 33 years in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem. A wonder to behold, and, perhaps, a puzzlement, too.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner