Paul, Apostle of Christ, is a religious movie even an atheist can love.
It’s the story of the apostle who came after Christ, who started his career chasing and torturing those who came to be known as Christians, until he was struck down on the road by Damascus by a God who then commanded him to follow Jesuus.
This is the story of the end of his life, as he is held in a Roman prison awaiting execution ordered by the Emperor Nero in 67 A.D.
Luke, a physician and gospel author played by Jim Caviezel, is visiting Paul to transcribe his experiences in a book that will eventually become the Acts of the Apostles.
But the film first makes clear that the Christians’ environment in Rome is anything but easy. Roman soldiers set Christian prisoners on fire after crucifying them, women are raped and their children are murdered. These images are a little grisly, but could potentially be worse.
The film is not completely based on the Bible, however. A group of Christians is trying to decide whether to leave the city or remain and risk the torments of Nero. Luke visits with them and takes their questions to an elderly and bearded Paul,(James Faulkner) who remains stoic and advises the group to make up their own mind, as God inspires them.
Another interlude concerns the prison’s prefect Mauritius, played by Olivier Martinez with an almost incomprehensible accent. He has a series of conversations with a friend who urges him to seize Luke’s writings about Paul to use for his own benefit with Nero. The prefect, a former Roman soldier, doesn’t like his new job and would like a promotion. But he has a sick daughter, and his wife is blaming him for angering the Roman gods who have struck their daughter down. It’s an interesting twist, as it is usually the mother who is filled with the Christian faith.
Paul urges the prefect to use the services of Luke, a great physician, and the results are predictable, but inspiring nonetheless.
I was the only one in theater at a late-night showing, and couldn’t help feeling that some people had dismissed the movie, as I almost did, as just another movie full of platitudes Instead, it’s a dramatic recreation of how people of all faiths, but especially Christians, struggle to believe in a world bent on convincing them otherwise.
The film is dedicated to those who have been “persecuted for their” faith, and provides Bible verses to illustrate how Paul, at the end of his life, has maintained his faith and belief in the face of violence and hate. Somehow these verses mean more than they would say, at a wedding or perhaps a funeral. The film is not just another religious movie. It’s a testament to struggle and belief in something greater than one’s self.