MRR Review: "Son of God"

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Rating: PG-13

Length: 138 minutes

Release Date: February 28, 2014

Directed by: Christopher Spencer

Genre: Drama


"Son of God" originated as a History Channel miniseries that premiered in February 2013. The 10-hour miniseries entitled "The Bible" was executive produced by actress Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett. Downey and Burnett also produced "Son of God," which incorporates scenes from the New Testament portion of the miniseries along with footage that was not seen on television. This groundbreaking movie is expected to take its rightful place among other big screen depictions of the life of Christ, such as Mel Gibson's 2004 epic "The Passion of the Christ" and George Stevens' 1965 classic "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

"Son of God" was shot simultaneously with the "The Bible" on location in Morocco. According to Roma Downey, it was always her and her husband's intention to make a separate film about Jesus. Because they could not possibly depict all the recorded events of Jesus' life, they aspired to show events highlighting Jesus' love, character and power as the Son of God.

The film opens with a passage from the Book of John and a brief but striking montage of scenes taken from the Old Testament. It then shifts into the New Testament with the birth of Christ. Jesus' story is told by Apostle John of Patmos. The aged narrator is the only one of Jesus' disciples who was spared a martyr's death. The first hour of the film follows Jesus as he performs signs and wonders throughout Jerusalem, and the remaining time focuses on his crucifixion, burial and ultimate resurrection. 

"Son of God" is full of memorable scenes that many Bible reader's do not readily picture when reading the Good Book, making this an insightful and valuable film. For instance, in a scene depicting the events leading up to Jesus' feeding of the five thousand, he waves from his boat to a group of children who are waving at him from the shore. In another heart warming scene, Christ kisses the deceased Lazarus's forehead, and the dead man returns to life. Jesus miraculously catching fish to win his first disciple's admiration and trust, his reaching out to the thieves who were crucified with him and his tenderness in his interactions with his mother show a sense of deep humanity and relatablity, reminding audiences that Jesus was not only the Son of God but also the Son of Man.

The "Son of God" aims to make a personal connection with audiences. Downey voiced the hope that the depiction of Jesus performing miracles and healings for the people of Jerusalem would cause Christians to "fall in love with him all over again" and that non-Christians would see him in a new light. Burnett, noting the films portrayal of Jerusalem's political unrest at the time of Jesus' arrival, punctuated by Pontius Pilate's threat to close down the temple if Jewish unrest was not curbed, hopes that audiences are able to identify with the political upheaval and "actually be able to see themselves as the disciples."

Jesus is masterfully played by Diogo Morgado, a talented film actor who is a well-known TV star in his native Portugal. Audiences, critics and religious leaders rave about Morado's sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the Son of God. His scenes with Downey, who plays his mother Mary in the film, are some of the most memorable and touching of the entire film.

The PG-13 film depicts the violent scenes of Jesus' crucifixion but does leave some of the more graphic elements of his death to the viewer's imagination. This allows the movie to appeal to a somewhat wider audience than 2004's R-rated "The Passion of the Christ." "Son of God" also differs from the Mel Gibson film in that it assumes that viewers are new to the story of Jesus. It begins with Jesus' birth as opposed to "The Passion," which begins with an adult Jesus on Holy Thursday. Overall, "Son of God" is appropriate for young teenagers and adults wanting to learn about the famed religious leader or deepen their understanding of what the already know about him.

That "Son of God" was made with a tremendous amount of love, and the intention of sharing that love with audiences is evident in every aspect of the film. From the stirring score, to the compelling cinematography, to the unforgettable performances, this monumental film captures the essence of Christ's message and life, and, in so doing, reaches out to the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike. It is a cinematic event whose grandeur is likely to resound throughout the coming generations.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5