@dbaileyauthor Welcome back to faith-based movie reviews. Today, 1492 Pictures The Young Messiah.
Following his resurrection of a young tormentor in Egypt, a seven year-old Jesus, played by Adam Greaves-Neal, returns with his parents to Nazareth following the death of Herod the Great. But when news of the miracle reaches the younger Herod (Jonathan Bailey), he orders Roman centurion Severus (Sean Bean) to find and destroy the child. It is during the early days of this pursuit that Severus unknowingly saves Jesus’ life in the midst of a skirmish with local dissidents. I must pause here to give kudos to Director Cyrus Nowrasteh for his choice to resist the temptation to depict the battle in typical Hollywood fashion. There are no gratuitous presentations of gaping wounds, severed limbs, or swords entering body parts, and only a small amount of blood. And yet the fight is by no means lacking in power. Nowrasteh manages to convey the fear and intensity of the battle through the use of sound, which, admittedly, can be just as frightening to those of us with vivid imaginations.
While the young Messiah tries to come to terms with the significance of his newfound powers, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh) disagree on just how much they should reveal to him about his divine nature. Meanwhile, Herod’s paranoia over the child’s existence leads to increased pressure on the Roman commander to locate him. Near the end of the film the family arrives in Jerusalem, where the stage is set for a climatic confrontation between Severus and Jesus in the courtyard just outside the Holy Temple.
Greaves-Neal is warm and charming as Jesus, playing the part with a naiveté and innocence that belies his character’s supernatural abilities or his future place in history. Lazzaro and Walsh are equally convincing as the boy’s earthly parents, exercising appropriate amounts of love and discipline toward the child while at the same time harboring fears for his safety. Bean’s character is easily the most conflicted. Though he is duty-bound to carry out the assassination, he is also scarred by having participated in the slaughter of the sons of Israel seven years prior. Bailey’s Herod is not only paranoid, but delusional, seeing serpents where none exist and leading to periods of emotional and mental instability. My favorite performance comes from Christian McKay, who plays the young Messiah’s uncle, Cleopas. Huge and gregarious on-screen, McKay steals several scenes with his bigger than life portrayal.
Despite the freshness of the subject matter, loosely based on the Anne Rice novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Director Nowrasteh borrows several conventions from previous films. Fans of The Passion of the Christ will experience feelings of déjà vu at the first appearance of the demon (Rory Keenan), a black robed figure strangely reminiscent of the Satan character in Mel Gibson’s film. Gibson chose a bald female actress to play the part; here, Nowrasteh outfits Keenan with long curly blonde hair and a dark beard. In both movies, the father of lies is only visible to Jesus. A later confrontation between Severus and Jesus will remind some of the stare down between the Christ figure and the Roman commander who challenged him for giving water to condemned prisoner Judah in the movie Ben Hur.
The movie receives three out of five projectors for the originality of its screenplay and the execution of its storyline, while its plausible portrayal of a young Jesus as an inquisitive, yet obedient, child earn it four out of five fish.
While not quite the character study of Clavius in the movie, Risen, The Young Messiah is nonetheless a very entertaining and satisfying film. And like its family-friendly predecessor, it is likewise worthy of your Easter movie dollar.
For the movie’s overall entertainment value, 3/5 projectors.
For its portrayal of Jesus, 4/5 fish for Christian friendliness.