Genre:  Christian

Rating:  PG

Release Date:  September 2003 (in selected theaters – see www.GospelofJohnTheFilm.com)

Actors:  Henry Ian Cusick, Stuart Bunce, Daniel Kash’s, Richard Lintern, Stephen Russell, Scott Handy and Christopher Plummer as the Narrator.

Director:  Philip Saville

Special Notes:  I’ve already had a few people ask me if this movie will “ruin”, “conflict” or “hurt” Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion” (which will hopefully be released early next year). I even read a quote that said, “There are other Jesus movies in preparation, but 'The Gospel of John' is the one that most Christians have been waiting for.” Folks, please forgive me for bluntly expressing my opinion but shame on any of us for thinking that way. Christians should be thrilled that there are a couple of movies portraying Jesus and his ministry coming soon to a theater near you. Just as there are four different Gospels with four different interpretations of Christ and his ministry, so can (and should) there be a multitude of distinctly different movies telling the truth about Jesus.

I have seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion,” and it is a completely different story, focus and interpretation from “The Gospel of John,” so why would anyone think one would hurt the other or that one would be better than another? Isn’t that the beauty of telling a story and that there are many different ways to do so? Hollywood is famous for releasing movies with similar themes and storylines around the same time. Just this summer we were inundated with comic book heroes from “X2” and “The Hulk,” futuristic heroes from “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Terminator: Rise of the Machines” and within a week of each other we were given two very different pirate movies:  “Sinbad:  Legend of the Seven Seas” and “Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl.”. 

At a time in our culture when Hollywood is most comfortable using Jesus’ name as religious profanity in their movies, the church needs to rally behind the filmmakers who dare to give Jesus honor (and a platform) by making a movie about him. Provided they are good movies and the content is worthy of our money and patronage, let’s pay each film, its director and producers the respect they deserve by supporting their movies and the ultimate “good news” message that will reach the world.

Plot:  This is a three-hour epic feature on the story of Jesus’ life as described by His disciple John from the New Testament book of John. It is the first major theatrical picture of an entire book of the Bible adapted on a word-for-word basis and narrated by the actor Christopher Plummer. Along with the narration, Jesus (Cusick) is shown interacting with his disciples John (Bunce) and Peter (Kash) as well as Andrew, Philip, Thomas and Judas. There are several scenes where Jesus clashes with the leading Pharisee (Lintern), goes through his trial with Pilate (Russell) and meets up with Nicodemus and John the Baptist.  Many will recognize familiar characters:  Jesus' mother Mary, the sisters Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and the blind and lame men Jesus healed.

Good:  I sat in awe while watching this movie because it took Scripture that I’ve been familiar with for most of my life and transformed the familiar into a profound and intimate look at Jesus. I came out of the screening appreciating Christ, his teachings and his radical personality on a whole new level. Cusick portrays Jesus as an intelligent, manly, charismatic soul who has a tender heart towards women (saving one from being stoned), compassion on those who are sick, lame and blind, a righteous indignation when money changers invade the temple and a bold authority that challenged the pious religious authorities of his day.  Scriptwriter John Goldsmith ("Victoria and Albert", "Return of the Saint", "Great Expectations") unfolds the story of Jesus in an easy-to-understand language using the American Bible Society’s Good News Bible translation combined with Saville’s ("Metroland", "Hamlet", "Oedipus the King") keen directorial talents. The result is an entertaining, compelling and inspirational movie about Jesus that clearly explains why Jesus and his followers were at odds with the religious leaders of his day. As Jesus makes his messianic claims before the Pharisees and Sadducees, it’s like watching Shakespeare for the first time and actually understanding what the dialogue means. The impressive cast of about 75 principal actors from the Canadian and British stage and nearly 2,500 extras creates an international version of Jesus that doesn’t have an “American” look to it but instead feels as if you’re watching a documentary as it actually happened. The original score was recorded by the world-renowned Philharmonia Orchestra of London, using ancient instruments to achieve authentic sounds of the period. The music emotionally moves the film and is a perfect addition for this kind of story.