While there was little publicity about Paul, Apostle of Christ, I was anxious to see the story of the early Church’s most dynamic evangelist. The book of Acts and letters of Paul read like the Odyssey so I expected a movie full of action and drama with Paul racing from city to city, all the while, being chased by angry crowds and Roman soldiers, highlighted by shipwrecks, starvation, and miracles.
In reality, Paul, Apostle of Christ, begins at the end. Paul, played by James Faulkner, is aged and languishing in a Roman prison. He is a beaten and raggedy shadow of the firebrand we have come to know in the Bible; the sad and lonely figure we read about in II Timothy 4:9-11.
“…Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmation. Only Luke is with me.” And, in 4:16, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.”
The entire movie is cast in shadows and darkness. Paul peers up from his gloomy prison as shafts of sunlight stream through the grate overhead, God’s light reaching into his fading life. Luke is allowed visitation as Paul’s physician but is more accurately his personal secretary. Luke records as Paul shares his thoughts and the gleaming gems we cherish today. Paul seems to be consoling himself, reminding us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Meanwhile, the Roman streets outside are as dark and forlorn.
Rome is a dangerous place to be a Christian. Small conclaves hide behind walled homes in hushed tones. Emperor Nero has it out for them and when they are captured, become human torches to light the streets or food for bloodthirsty public games. They too, live in shadows and darkness.
Paul, Apostle of Christ is quiet and slow, not at all what I expected. The most interesting character is Luke, played by Jim Caviezel, known for portraying Christ in Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, pillar statements of our faith will slip by unrecognized. Paul speaks so quietly, so lost in thought, if you aren’t tuned in the brilliance of the moment evaporates. I came away feeling cheated, in search of the Paul who is larger than life. I found another movie, Paul, The Apostle, released in 2000.
In Paul, The Apostle, from The Bible Collection, Paul takes us through his vengeful early days, the stoning of Stephen, the road to Damascus, the difficulties he faced to be accepted by Peter and the new church, and being let down the city wall in a basket. We get to see him mature as a Christian and become the bold instrument of Christ we know him to be. While not a well-known movie, it is well done and will satisfy the longing to experience the journey of Paul’s saga. One of the most interesting stories within the story is the war waged by the Jewish Sanhedrin, outraged by Paul’s defection. Also, the strength of the women of Christ who continue to quietly support the early foundation layers of His Church. The character of Barnabas is well-developed and so likable. I was able to watch it on Netflix.
Taken together, both movies give a full and meaningful picture of God’s greatest messenger to the Gentiles. Even today, Paul’s life is fascinating, his words a powerful witness for Christ. As his life ended, surely God smiled and, with outstretched arms, welcomed him, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
~ Cheryl Kurtz