Paul, Apostle of Christ
|Paul, Apostle of Christ|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andrew Hyatt|
|Screenplay by||Andrew Hyatt|
|Music by||Jan A.P. Kaczmarek|
|Edited by||Scott Richter|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures|
|Box office||$22.8 million|
Paul, Apostle of Christ is a 2018 American biblical drama film written and directed by Andrew Hyatt. It stars James Faulkner as Saint Paul and Jim Caviezel (who portrayed Jesus in the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ) as Saint Luke.
The film tells the story of Paul, who was known as a ruthless persecutor of Christians prior to his conversion to Christianity. The plot focuses on his becoming a pivotal figure in the formation of the early church before being executed by Emperor Nero in Rome.
This article needs an improved plot summary. (March 2018)
The setting is Mamertine Prison in Rome where Paul has been imprisoned because he has been deemed a threat to the Roman Empire. Emperor Nero has sentenced him to death. Paul's long journey to this place has been eventful. At one time—as Saul—he persecuted Christians relentlessly. And then he converted to Christianity. That is when Paul became the persecuted. His path has involved degradation, torture and shipwreck.
At Mamertine, he interacts with his jailer Mauritius and Luke the evangelist. Mauritius is curious about Paul and seeks to learn how this one man can have such a profound effect on the empire. Luke, his dutiful caretaker, takes this opportunity to write the Acts of the Apostles, a history of the early church. Meanwhile, the infamous persecution of the Christians under Nero is in full effect. As the time draws near to the date of his execution, Paul struggles with God's forgiveness for his sins. He must remember God's grace and near the end says, "where sin abounds, grace abounds more."
Luke the evangelist enters Rome in secret just as he witnesses Christian victims being set ablaze as human torches to light the night-time streets. He has been sent by other Christian communities outside of Rome to meet with Paul the Apostle and persuade him to help in writing an account of his wisdom. Luke meets with Priscilla and Aquila, the leaders of the Christian community hiding out in the city, who are currently debating whether to stay in Rome and continue to provide hope to persecuted victims of Nero's pogrom or to leave the city with their community to avoid certain death.
Paul has been imprisoned inside Mamertine Prison for his strong influence as a Christian leader which makes him a threat to Nero's power and the Roman Empire. Mauritius Gallus, the newly appointed prefect of the prison, accuses him of burning half of Rome down and, under Nero's decree, sentences him to death. Luke uses forged papers to sneak into the prison and joyfully greets a weary, physically beaten Paul. Paul and Luke both agree that Paul's time on Earth is soon coming to an end and so Luke convinces him to help write an account of how Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, came to be one of Christianity's greatest leaders. Mauritius discovers that Luke had snuck into the prison with the help of high-ranking Romans, but allows him to visit Paul unscathed because those Romans are also friends of Mauritius.
Paul begins narrating his origins: That as Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish boy, he was influenced by the zealotry of the Jewish leaders and witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen at their hands for professing faith in Jesus Christ. This event made Saul vow to destroy all Christians throughout the world. Mauritius laments the fact that he has been made prefect of the prison despite his many deeds for Rome and that his daughter is dying from a terrible sickness despite all his sacrifices to the Roman gods. At a tavern, his friends suggest that he find some evidence that the Christians were responsible for burning down Rome despite rumors abounding that it was Nero who started the fire.
The Christian community continues to suffer losses, including a Roman boy named Tarquin who was sent to enlist the aid of citizens sympathetic to the Christians' plight. Tarquin's cousin, Cassius, adamantly calls for Christians to take up arms and seek revenge against the Romans for all their persecutions. But, Aquila rebukes him by saying that Paul never sought revenge or wished ill upon all those who harmed him and that "love is the only way". Luke, having witnessed the Roman's barbarism and cruelty, relates this news to Paul and begins to sympathize with the need for revenge. Paul, however, admonishes him for "giving up on the world when Christ did not" and tells him that the very love which Christ died for is the only way to counter this evil. Inspired by these words, Luke lets go of his anger and continues writing down Paul's story.
At this point, Paul relates how he hunted down and butchered many Christians throughout the Holy Land until the day he rode for Damascus with his brethren. He became blinded by God and heard His voice asking why Saul persecuted Him. This event along with Saul's meeting Ananias, a disciple of Christ, humbles Saul so deeply that he repents of his actions. Ananias restores Saul's sight and baptizes him in the name of the Lord, which leads to Saul rejecting his former name and becoming Paul.
Mauritius, having heard about Paul's reputation as a preacher and miracle worker, speaks with Paul and relays his concerns that his daughter is dying. Paul suggests that Luke be allowed to examine her and help, but Mauritius refuses to allow a Christian into his home despite the protests of his wife who is growing impatient with Mauritius' hubris. Further, Mauritius has Luke imprisoned under the assumption that Paul and Luke are plotting an escape from the prison to lead an uprising against Rome. Paul, however, assures him that this is not the case and offers Luke words of comfort that he will find the strength to love and forgive their enemies.
Cassius, having lost all patience with Priscilla and Aquila's pacifism, takes matters into his own by bringing an armed group of men to storm the prison and free Paul. But, Paul rejects their offer of rescue by telling them that Christ has already won the victory upon the cross. Dejected, Cassius and the others escape before more guards arrive and disappear into the night. Mauritius angrily accuses Paul and Luke of the conspiracy to escape despite their protests and has Luke thrown into prison along with other imprisoned Christians. After learning that they will be sentenced to Nero's circus to be devoured by wild beasts, Luke leads the other Christians in prayer asking the Lord to forgive their captors for their impending execution.
Mauritius finally relents over fearing the loss of her daughter and has Luke brought to his house to save her. Luke sends Mauritius to Aquila and Priscilla for supplies needed to heal the child. Mauritius, amazed that Luke would entrust the lives of other Christians to him, goes alone to their hiding place and begs for their help. Although initially wary and distrustful of a Roman asking for their assistance, they ultimately give Mauritius the supplies he requests. With the items delivered, Luke is able to use his healing skills as a physician to cure the prefect's daughter of her illness at the same time that the imprisoned Christians are thrown into the circus.
With his daughter finally healthy again, Mauritius graciously spares Luke's life and thanks Paul for continuing to show him compassion and kindness. Although Mauritius is sorry for the deaths of the Christians in the arena, Paul is hopeful that Mauritius may yet come to know Jesus Christ and God's undying love. Paul and Luke meet one more time and express their belief that all the world shall know the Christians by their love and that they will meet again. Aquila and Priscilla, having decided at this point to leave Rome with their community, agree to deliver Luke's completed writings to Timothy, thus ensuring that the Acts of the Apostles will be told and retold to all Christians and non-Christians.
Luke decides to remain in Rome and continue the work of evangelizing in the name of Christians. As the Christian community escapes into the countryside, Paul is escorted outside the prison to be executed by decapitation with Luke watching it unfold. Mauritius shakes Paul's hand in a final gesture of goodwill and respect. As Paul's execution is underway, a voice-over narrates his conclusion to Timothy saying that he is thankful to have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. The final scene depicts Paul arriving in Heaven as a crowd of people greet him joyfully, including all those he once persecuted and killed. He is last seen walking towards Jesus filled with peace.
- James Faulkner as Saint Paul
- Jim Caviezel as Saint Luke
- Olivier Martinez as Mauritius, prefect of Mamertine Prison
- Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Irenica, wife of Mauritius
- Joanne Whalley as Priscilla, companion of Paul and Aquilla's wife
- John Lynch as Aquilla, companion of Paul and Priscilla's husband
- Noah Huntley as Publius
- Yorgos Karamihos Saul of Tarsus, i.e. Paul before his conversion to Christianity
- Alessandro Sperduti as Cassius
In an interview with Variety, Berden said that one of the main themes of the film is forgiveness: "Paul changed from murdering Christians to becoming one of their most influencial leaders. His life personifies ‘forgiveness,’ a concept that seems almost impossible today — but desperately needed."
Producer T.J. Berden, recognizing the emergence of new platforms for movie distribution which allows the viewer access anytime, anywhere, partnered with Hyatt to produce a series of film projects to capitalize on the new technologies. The first film resulting from the collaboration was Full of Grace, released in 2016. Paul, Apostle of Christ is the second film of the series.
In a featurette released about the film, writer/director Andrew Hyatt explains his approach in developing a Bible-based screenplay:
Always the first step... is study Scripture. We just stay with Scripture as the only source material. And then when we start to bring the humanity side of it, it just comes very naturally because we've done all the research and we’ve gotten all the experts to sign off.
In Paul, Luke presents an important plot element in the script:
Well, in 2 Timothy when Paul is writing from the Mamertine prison, there's this tiny little bit right at the top of the letter that says ‘Only Luke is here with me.’ And so it just starts to build this beautiful palette that is 100% scripturally accurate. You are filling in the details, but it’s all there.
Jim Caviezel was cast as Luke. It is his first biblical role since he portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ in 2004. Caviezel's performance in the blockbuster film was met with critical acclaim. In an interview, Caviezel said that Mel Gibson told him that the role would ruin his career; and he "has no regrets about playing the most iconic role of all time". Caviezel explains how he prepared for the role of Luke:
I read the Acts of the Apostles and started lifting little clues here and there, and I went to Mass and prayed on them. And then we see how he wrote, how Paul sees [Luke], and I started cross-examining him — and there is a lot of cross-examining and asking him about it — and slowly it starts to all come together.
James Faulkner, who portrays Paul, starred as Randyll Tarly in HBO's Game of Thrones and in 2013 he played Pope Sixtus IV in BBC’s Da Vinci’s Demons. Joanne Whalley, in the role of Priscilla, had biblical roles previously as Pilate’s wife Claudia in A.D. The Bible Continues (2015) and Noah's wife Emmie in The Ark (2015). Priscilla's husband, Aquila is played by John Lynch. Lynch is known for The Secret Garden, as well as roles from the Bible as Sagan in The Passion (2008), Gabriel in The Nativity (2010) and Nicodemus in Killing Jesus (2015).
According to Yorgos Karamihos, the director and producers urged the actors to be "as authentic and visceral as possible in order to be real" rather than take into consideration sensibilities of various religious groups.
The filming was done on location on Malta. St. Paul's Island in Malta is known as the location where Paul and Luke were shipwrecked on their way to Rome. Many of the crew who worked on the film were culled from HBO's Game of Thrones, another production filmed in Malta. Karamihos said they were "some of the best people [in the local film industry]." Karamihos found Malta to be "one of the strangest places I've ever seen in my life – it is so built up for such a small place." He described it as "a strange combination of Africa, Asia, and Europe, bringing together all three continents both in the language and the culture and aesthetic."
Paul, Apostle of Christ was originally scheduled to be released on the Wednesday before Easter, March 28, 2018, by Affirm Films. However, in February 2018, the film's release date was moved up to March 23, 2018. The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms on June 12, 2018.
Paul, Apostle of Christ grossed $17.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $4.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $22.4 million, against a production budget of $5 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film released alongside Pacific Rim Uprising, Midnight Sun, Unsane and Sherlock Gnomes, and it grossed $5 million, finishing 8th at the box office.and was projected to gross $2–7 million from 1,473 theaters in its opening weekend. It ended up debuting to $5.2 million, finishing 8th at the box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 46% based on 35 reviews, and an average rating of 5.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Paul, Apostle of Christ proves a well-intentioned yet disappointingly diffuse interpretation of a Bible story whose flashes of potential never come close to living up to the source material." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying: "It's an impressively-staged, well-acted, thoughtful and faithful telling of the last days of the Apostle Paul — and how Luke risked his life again and again to visit his great mentor in prison and make a written record of Paul's life experiences and teachings."
Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, applauding Faulkner's and Caviezel's performances and calling the film a "relevant — and inspiring — portrayal of principled steadfastness and spiritual integrity in the face of a petty, corrupt and tyrannical leader."
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote the film was "missing passion" and wrote: "The life of the crucial evangelist Paul has everything needed for a powerful film, but the filmmakers picked the wrong part of his life to dramatize in Paul, Apostle of Christ, a soupy, conjectural take on how the widely-traveled proselytizer came to produce his account of spreading Jesus' word throughout the Mediterranean world."
Steven Greydanus rates the film as the 3 out 4 stars on artistic and entertainment value in decentfilms.com for a review that originally in the National Catholic Register. He describes the film as "not the unmade epic about the life of Paul of Tarsus many would like to see, but… worthwhile in its own right."
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