Paul: Apostle of Christ (AUS – M/US – PG-13)

In a Word: Impactful

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"It’s those relationships – that between Paul and Luke and between them and the Roman soldier Mauritius - which form the heart of this story, a powerful reflection on the cost the early Christians paid to follow their Lord and Saviour and the power of their witness."

If you’re looking for a film that gets to the heart of what Christianity is about this Easter, you need go no further.

With an excellent cast, a deeply moving story and a detailed recreation of first century Rome, Paul tells the story of the final days of the Biblical apostle Paul, imprisoned in Rome and waiting execution.

Paul (played with appropriate gravitas by James Faulkner) is an old man, haunted by the mistakes of his past yet endeavouring to live in the grace God has extended him as he ekes out his final days in a subterranean cell.

His old friend, the physician Luke (Jim Caviezel), arrives in Rome to see and encourage him but the city, in the wake of a great fire which destroyed much of it and which the deranged Emperor Nero has subsequently blamed on Christian and, in particular, their leader Paul, is a dangerous place for any Christian to be.

The city’s small Christian community, led by the brave Priscilla (Joanne Whalley) and Aquila (John Lynch), is, as Luke discovers, hiding from view in a walled compound. They're seeking God's leading in whether to remain or stay in the city, a place where Christians are regularly being torn apart by wild beasts in the arena or tarred and set alight as “Roman candles” to light the city streets.

Luke manages to see Paul and convinces him to make a record of his life of faith (it’s that record that becomes the Book of Acts) but his visits attracts the attention of the prison’s commander, Mauritius (Olivier Martinez), whose daughter, we soon find out, is dying of an unknown illness.

It’s those relationships – that between Paul and Luke, and between them and the Roman soldier Mauritius - which form the heart of this story, a powerful reflection on the cost the early Christians paid to follow their Lord and Saviour, and the power of their witness.

That makes the acting the main show here and under the able direction of Andrew Hyatt, Faulkner, Caviezel and Martinez all deliver compelling performances.

Paul: Apostle of Christ is a challenging film to watch (while the brutality largely takes place off-screen, there’s still some intense scenes so be cautious about taking children) – but then so too is reading through the Book of Acts.

The film doesn’t try to do too much in the flashbacks retelling Paul’s life - which, given his fascinating journeys across the known world must have been tempting to do – and nor does it make the mistake of hammering any message too hard.

Rather, it lets the story speak for itself which while, largely containing the scale to the immediate stories at hand, provides a glimpse into the wider narrative of the early church.

This is a timely, polished film about what faith means in the toughest of circumstances with a resonance for those who continue to face persecution for their faith even today. Good Easter viewing.