Jim Caviezel plays the Apostle and Evangelist Luke in the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ and James Faulkner plays the leading role. This Affirm Films/Sony theater release was timed for Christian Holy Week and Easter.
The trailer indicates that the filmmakers took license with dialogue and therefore some of the history. Still, we at SCENES Media were eager to see how much the film truly captures Saint Paul’s part in the “greatest story every told.” I saw the film opening weekend in a packed Virginia theater and I’m re-releasing this article with a brief review.
First, however, Caviezel is bold about this new role and everything that led to it. Essentially, he believes that God calls every one to a special role in life. He believes his roles as Jesus in The Passion of The Christ and as Luke in this new movie comprise part of his profession as an actor, and his larger role is to live as a Christian in the midst of the world.
Here is Jim Caviezel speaking to the Fellowship Of Catholic University Students on January 4, 2018 about what he sees as God’s providence in much of his movie career.
Paul, Apostle of Christ was written by Terence Berden and Andrew Hyatt. Like Caviezel, they are Catholic. Hyatt also directed.
We meet Paul during the last stage of his life. Nero is waging his reign of terror on all Christians; he blamed Paul and the Christians for tragically setting Rome on fire; and he condemned Paul to death. In real history, Saint Peter is also condemned, but he’s nowhere in the movie.
Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner are superb actors who look the parts of Luke and Paul, but were given a bad script. If Paul, Apostle of Christ was my introduction to both of these men so profound in history, I wouldn’t quite know what they believed, what they preached and why they were willing to suffer torture and die for it. In the movie, Paul mostly speaks about some amorphous cause of love instead of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. I watched Faulkner and Caviezel completely captivated by them as performers while waiting for the Apostle who wrote the Epistles of Saint Paul and waiting for the man that Luke describes in The Acts of the Apostles. The depiction of Saint Paul’s flashback to his spectacular conversion is underwhelming because it is shot in close-ups and the voice of Christ is mild rather than commanding.
Much of the problem is fictional subplots. Luke arrives in Rome to attend to Paul, and he goes to the home of Aquila and Priscilla, who shelter many Christians. Except, to the best of my knowledge, these friends of Paul (played by John Lynch and Joanne Whalley) were expelled from Rome 15 years earlier and yet the movie has Priscilla debating with her husband whether they should separate because she wants to stay and he wants to leave the dangerous city. (See Saint Paul’s salutes to this couple in Acts 18; Romans 16; 1 Corinthians 16; and 2 Timothy 4.)
Two young, embittered hotheads are among the Christians. They allegedly attempted to rescue Paul from prison and killed some of the guards. Paul refutes this violence when he and Luke are confronted by the magistrate and jailer. This plays out as if Paul believes Christians should submit to whatever persecution comes upon them, yet the real Paul did everything in his power to avoid and escape his murderous enemies.
The most disappointing scene for me is Luke and Paul inexplicably walking in a sunny Roman garden outside the dark prison. It seems the filmmakers wanted to add some humor and joy to the movie. Instead, Luke and Paul sound like 21st century PR mavens plotting technique.
Even the trailer below is misleading because Luke never predicted in his writings that Saint Paul would “change the history of world,” albeit he did. Priscilla wasn’t in Rome to say that they were “the only light left in the city.” Really Saint Paul, Saint Peter and others tortured and executed by Nero were witnesses to Jesus as “the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5).
Despite my objections, again, I was totally captivated and I sobbed when Paul was executed. At least Paul, Apostle of Christ succeeds in reminding me of martyrs who suffered throughout the ages and those who suffer today.