Paul, Apostle of Christ, written by Terence Berden and Andrew Hyatt, directed by the latter
There could be three ways to look at this film depending on your religious views, for a faithful viewer the watching of Paul, Apostle of Christ can be an overwhelming experience and he or she can appreciate or reject the movie, depending on the similarities in perspective with the filmmakers or lack thereof.
For the atheist – like the under signed – the glow, mystique, power, fascination of watching a representation out of the Bible, the capital, paramount work, the Book of all Books would be missing and it would need to be compensated by the artistic achievement of the motion picture.
Alas, this is not an astonishing accomplishment to be placed on a par with The Last Temptation of Christ, The Passion of the Christ – with the same remarkable Jim Caviezel in the title role- and other notable features on the subject of Christ, his apostles and the disputed events of that time.
As for this cinephile, he would rather enjoy the scenes from Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I, wherein we have the famous Last Supper Scene, where the waiter is played by Mel Brooks, Jesus and the apostles sit and the Italian painter – Leonardo da Vinci supposedly- comes into the room to re- arrange those gathered.
A funny dialogue ensues, as the waiter is trying to take the order – and push the inferior wine as requested by the crooked owner of the inn, regardless of the majesty, glory of his divine guests- and there is a debate in the room:
Jesus: One of you has already betrayed me this night.
Various apostles: No!
Comicus: Judas! [Judas yells in fright] Would you like some mulled wine?
Judas: No. No. Leave us alone!
Comicus: All right, all right! Jesus!
In Paul, Apostle of Christ, the plot refers to Rome in 67 AD, a huge fire has destroyed part of the city and although the culprit was most likely mad Nero, the emperor imprisons Paul and accuses him and his Christian followers of the calamity.
The commander of the Mamertine prison is Mauritius Gallas and he has a major role to play, as he would be torn between his rejection of this – at the time- blasphemous belief and the need to try anything to save his dying daughter that had not responded to any of the known treatments…including sacrifices to the accepted Gods of the Romans, at that time.
Luke aka Jim Caviezel also known as the Greek, arrives from the Greek islands and tries to help Christians and wants to share the gruesome fate of Paul and the other martyrs, burned by the Romans on the streets, like candles.
Paul, Luke and many others are supposed to be killed in the arena, where the Romans organized games, fights between gladiators and occasionally, clashes with animals and in this case, the “exquisite entertainment” of watching Christians being massacred in front of the huge audiences.
Mauritius Gallas raises the issue of the miracles he had heard of, the famous legends associated with Jesus Christ and his followers and although he does not believe the rumors, he wonders if Paul could do something about his very sick daughter.
Although Paul knows he would die and emphasizes in his talks with Luke, with whom he shares a dark, underground cell that God controls their fate and they would serve Him in life and in death.
Some of their followers attack the prison and both Luke and Paul could escape, but they refuse to escape and Luke is even humorous to some extent, in the middle of dramatic, gruesome scenes, when he is confronted by Gallas who blames them for what had just happened, underlining that the commander could have been the one facing death, if the apostles really wanted to control events in that sense.
When the warden has no more options, the last doctor he had consulted admitted to his impotence, saying he had run out of ideas, he can only recommend sacrifices to the Gods, for he knows of no other options, Paul aka the very good James Faulkner, seems to have a last solution.
He talks with kindness and generosity – seeing as there is no grace, no escape from the death sentence in sight- towards his enemy, applying the fundamentals of the Christian teaching and says that Luke is an excellent doctor and he should be consulted.
As a last resort, reluctantly and against the wishes of his wife- if this is not a wrong interpretation of her imprecations- Mauritius Gallas brings Luke in to see his child, the smart apostle thinks he knows what the illness and more importantly the cure would be and sends the warden to…his fellow Christians.
This was a meaningful, emotional, powerful moment as Luke makes it clear that the Roman has entrusted him with the life of his daughter, but now the apostle gives the warden the chance to annihilate so many Christians, who are hiding and need to give him the cure.