14 March 2009 | steven-222
Intellectual thriller, intriguing and full of surprises
An agent from the emperor Tiberius (Keith Carradine) arrives in Judea to investigate the reputed resurrection of Jesus. Pontius Pilate (Harvey Keitel) is suspicious of the investigator's intentions; Pilate's wife (Phyllis Logan, later in the series LOVEJOY) has her own agenda. I expected a work of religious propaganda masquerading as historical drama...but this movie is a genuine intellectual thriller and went places I did not anticipate. It's a serious treatment of the political and religious thought-world of the time, convincingly gritty and violent, and the intent of the filmmakers is ultimately both ambitious and ambiguous. Yes, the agent played by Carradine goes on a spiritual quest, but probably not the one that viewers expect.
This may be one of my favorite films set in the ancient world. It is certainly one of the best to deal with the origins of Christianity, almost in a class with BARABBAS.
The biggest weakness of the movie is the acting. Carradine and Keitel both deliver some stiff line-readings. I suspect the Italian director was not much help to them. (And compared to, say, the "perfect storm" of acting conjured by Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss in MASADA, these guys are pretty lightweight.) But Carradine ultimately rises to the occasion, especially in the crucial last half-hour.
I haven't seen this movie on DVD anywhere except from Germany; fortunately, the Region 2 German DVD has an English track.
Footnote: the 2006 Italian telemovie with the same title is a very weak remake, retaining only the basic premise and the name of the main character.