By John Hanlon
In the same way that the standalone film Son of God (2014) used recut footage from the mini-series The Bible, the new Discovery+ film Resurrection tells its own story using footage from the mini-series A.D. The Bible Continues.
Despite this limitation, Resurrection ably tells a complete story about the days immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion.
The first few minutes of the film set the stage as they focus on Jesus’ death on the Cross. As the film commences, Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace) is prosecuted and sentenced to crucifixion. In the midst of his trial and death, there are glimpses of Peter (Adam Levy) and John (Babou Ceesay), two of Jesus’ closest disciples, who are horrified as their watch the scenes unfold.
While Peter denies his relationship with Jesus three times and runs away, John stands by with Jesus’ mother Mary (Greta Scacchi) as she witnesses the death of her son.
After Jesus’ death, the feature’s focus moves towards the apostles: the men who stood firmly behind Jesus during his life whose lives are devastated by his death. It’s here where the feature brings an accessibility to the apostles and shows how they personally struggled with what came next. Although the apostles are known as loyal followers who spread the word about Jesus’ life, they were also human and Resurrection offers an empathetic look at what they must’ve felt like right after witnessing their savior’s prosecution and realizing his ultimate fate.
If a viewer wanted to delve deeper into the characters, they could watch the full mini-series A.D. The Bible Continues but this standalone feature ably tells a shorter version of the story and focuses on some of the main events following Jesus’ death. From the events surrounding the opening of the tomb to Jesus appearing in the flesh to preach to the apostles, some of the major events of the resurrection are here but the focus remains on the disciples and their reaction to Jesus’ reappearances, rather than on the reappearances themselves.
Even with a limited runtime, the film manages to capture a glimpse of many of the major figures involved here and the cast ably brings them to life.
In addition to Peter, John and Mary, the feature also hints at the politics behind the scenes. From the manipulative Caiaphas (Richard Coyle) to the cruel Pilate (Vincent Regan) to Joseph of Arimathea (Kevin Doyle), who offers his tomb for Jesus’ body, the movie captures a broader look at the political landscape. Jesus' death on the cross didn't change the political dynamics on display and even after he died, the disciples were vilified and hunted by adversaries who wanted to undercut and quell the messages they were spreading.
By focusing on the apostles and hinting at the larger political atmosphere, Resurrection manages to stand out on its own. Fans of AD will likely appreciate seeing how the recut footage tells a familiar story in a new way but others, less familiar with these stories, can appreciate how this feature offers an accessible look at the disciples and their own fears and trepidations after Jesus' death.
In the end, the film shows how the apostles-- as flawed and human as they were-- found strength and courage through the Holy Spirit to spread Jesus' messages throughout the world.