Paul, Apostle of Christ
The movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ” opens with Luke, the Evangelist, attempting to visit Paul in a Roman jail while the Emperor Nero is attempting to eliminate all vestiges of Christianity. Set in these perilous times, the story wonderfully succeeds in depicting the beauty of a new moral philosophy at the very beginning of the Church. The comfort of Christ’s message is a blessing to the downtrodden and affluent alike as the vicissitudes of life inflict their merciless toll even across class boundaries.
The story is a modest one lacking any comprehensive sense of Church history outside of the immediate time and venue in which it is cast. The person of Christ and the other disciples are nowhere to be found. Instead what we have is a tiny but burgeoning Roman community of the devoted enduring great stress and struggling to survive.
The central narrative consists almost entirely of whispered prison conversations in which Paul is the stalwart defender and author of a theological treatise which Luke endeavors to record. Indeed, one of the highlights is the dramatic invention of emotional situations that give context to those endearing passages of the Bible which have entranced countless generations.
On the other hand, the tale fails to evoke any serious sense of concern over the brutality of the persecution beyond being a simple backdrop. Nor does the film editing provide any relief from the sometimes plodding dialogue with notable action scenes.
What mostly overcomes these issues however, is the authority and charisma of Paul the Apostle who by speaking to truth and to love and to beauty, almost singlehandedly sows the seeds of the Christian Church eventually to flower throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Nor is the iconic character of Paul simply a stereotype. Flashbacks to his earlier life, before he famously saw the light, provide a human depth and dimension that are memorable and touching.
So if it is possible to moderate your expectations of a remake of such blockbusters as “The Ten Commandments” or “Ben Hur” and to accept this unassuming but heartfelt portrayal of one small aspect of the Christian story, this is a movie, I can modestly recommend.