Free of flash and fantasy, Andrew Hyatt's Paul, Apostle of Christ is a faith-based film that asks to be taken seriously. In 67 A.D., as the Emperor Nero is scapegoating and massacring Christians for the Great Fire of Rome, the aging apostle Paul (James Faulkner) is incarcerated in the dank, dark Mamertine Prison. Luke (Jim Caviezel), the Greek physician who has already authored one Gospel, sneaks into Rome to try and gather Paul's last insights before the prisoner is put to death. Intercut with Paul and Luke's conversations, we see the hiding Christians debating whether to flee Rome. Leaving would mean giving up their struggle and abandoning those in the city who have yet to seek shelter with them; staying, however, will likely mean death. You can read into these hard choices any modern-day resonance you wish; the film is dedicated to "all who have been persecuted for their faith," which means that in today's world, it's pretty much dedicated to everybody.
Writer-director Hyatt is relatively restrained in his depictions of the cruelty being enacted upon Christians. The characters speak often of the promise of the afterlife, but they all seem to understand that the real struggle remains here, in the world at large. There's little in Paul, Apostle of Christ that's not predictable, but the film engages honestly enough with its ideas that at times it feels like a small … well, let's not use the word "miracle" in this case. It doesn't shy away from complexity, and for that we can all be grateful -- believers and heathens alike.
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