Approaching Christmas and Easter, there are usually waves of faith-based movies that are released to capitulate on the events. I decided to ride on this wave this year, seeing the three movies that were released in March 2018: Mary Magdalene, I Can Only Imagine, and Paul, Apostle of Christ. I was uninspired by Mary Magdalene, and was moved by I Can Only Imagine – but of the three movies, I was really looking forward to Paul, Apostle of Christ. After being quite disappointed by Mary Magdalene, I approached the movie quite gingerly – not wanting to view an ‘alternative’ version of event to the ones written in the Bible.
The writer/director, Andrew Hyatt, is cited to have stayed close to the Scripture – and it shows in the movie. The movie starts with Luke (Jim Caviezel) who travels to Rome and visits a small community of Christians led my husband-and-wife, Aquila (John Lynch) and Priscilla (Joanne Whalley). Everybody is fearful, with Christians being actively persecuted by the order of the Emperor Nero. Paul (James Faulkner) is kept in the Mamertine Prison, under the guard of Mauritius (Olivier Martinez) – the prefect of the prison. Luke decides to visit Paul in prison, so he can relay Paul’s advice and messages to the community. Paul knows that his end is near, as he is used as the Emperor considers him a threat to the Roman Empire.
It is quite a marked difference when a movie is made with conviction and is truly inspired. Compared to Mary Magdalene, which is akin to sipping a watery broth (still with some goodness in it, albeit questionable ingredients), watching Paul, Apostle of Christ is like taking a thick soup filled with goodness. It does take a lot to digest, even if you are familiar with the story and with the Bible. This is one of those films that you probably plan to buy the DVD later on, so you can watch it, pause it, and study it at the same time. Through the interactions between Paul and Luke, well-known verses in the Bible come alive in their conversations. The film presents its version on how 1 Corinthians 13 verses come into being, and what Paul means when he says that God’s grace is sufficient to him.
This strength is also the weakness of the movie. If you haven’t read the Bible, or are not familiar with Paul’s letters to various congregations, you are most likely to be lost throughout the movie. The movie is mostly conversations and events that are tightly compacted – and some audience may find it slow-moving. It doesn’t help as well that the sound does not seem to be well equalised. For the most part of the movie, I had to tilt my head so I could hear the conversations more clearly, especially when Mauritius was speaking. Olivier Martinez‘s French accent is still very strong, despite his attempt to mask it.
All considered, I am still blessed and very much enriched by this movie. Paul, as portrayed by the film, was a person haunted by the zealotry of his youth, and yet tempered and shaped by God’s grace and love. I won’t reveal the final scene of the movie or the verse that is used to close it – but by golly, I had to muffle my cry. I would definitely recommend this movie to fellow Christians, so we can understand more of Paul’s life and how we can also continue to act like His light and salt here on earth.