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Blu-ray Review Killing Jesus Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Killing Jesus Blu-ray Review

Another in the “Killing” series of historical reenactments based on best sellers by Bill O’Reilly, Christopher Menaul’s Killing Jesus is a sober, rather straightforward telling of a tale told many times before, but of the three “Killing” titles (the others were Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy), this is the least of the three hampered somewhat by a strange kind of overkill on this particular topic, the miniseries The Bible and subsequent film Son of God already having covered this territory within the past year. It’s well made but lacks emotional impact much of the time, and with previous film and television accounts often emphasizing the emotional pull of the narrative rather than the historical facts, this film’s lack of that quality certainly distinguishes it but not in a positive way.



Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Rating: TV-14

Run Time: 2 Hr. 12 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet

keep case in a slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 06/02/2015

MSRP: $29.99




The Production Rating: 2.5/5

In telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth, Walon Green’s screenplay based on the best seller by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard tends to a more secularized slant on the basic material known to us a couple of centuries after the fact. The miracles shown are small ones (a demon exorcized from a young child, mammoth catches of fish) instead of the major miraculous events usually portrayed in screen versions of Jesus’ life. The story, of course, covers all of the basics: the birth in Bethlehem attended by a motley collection of onlookers, Herod’s (Kelsey Grammer)’s order of slaughter, the thirty-year gap before Jesus (Haaz Sleiman) begins his teachings, the baptism by John the Baptist (Abhin Galeya), the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus casting out the moneylenders from the temple, Judas’ (Joe Doyle) betrayal and subsequent suicide, the Last Supper, the arrest, trial, Crucifixion, and subsequent Resurrection. Throughout, the emphasis is on the legal ramifications going on behind the scenes while Jesus was out teaching to the multitudes: the political maneuvering between various factions seeking power or trying to maintain it: governor Pilate (Stephen Moyer) and district officials Herod Antipas (Eoin Macken), Caiaphas (Rufus Sewell) and Annas (John Rhys-Davies). And, of course, there are the officials’ wives who certainly demand to be heard on matters that concern their own stations of importance: Pilate’s wife Claudia (Tamsin Egerton), Herod’s wife Herodias (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and stepdaughter Salome (Stephanie Leonidas).

 

Filmed in Morocco, the movie has the look and feel of authenticity, and it’s obvious that expense was not spared in costuming, sets, and props to give an accurate feel to the era that’s being portrayed. Christopher Menaul’s direction seems assured and well-paced; nothing seems to drag, and the most violent moments like John the Baptist’s beheading or Jesus’ scourging and later nailing to the cross are shown but not dwelled upon for shock value. On the other hand, in slimming down the narrative to fit it into a three-hour (with commercials) television time block, famous sequences are not lingered on as they are in longer versions of the story, and those looking for a fresh approach to the narrative may find that favorite parts of the tale are either skipped over entirely or abbreviated sometimes unsatisfactorily. The historical aspects of the tale are covered but often not in as great a detail as one might have wished to achieve the fullest understanding of the laws and the motivations behind the characters' actions.

 

There has been an honest effort to cast Jesus and his disciples with actors who are either Middle Eastern in look or in actuality. With the less beatific approach to portraying Christ being applied here, Haaz Sleiman offers an earnest if rather rudimentary take on the character. Better is Abhin Galeya’s John the Baptist with a bit more fire and vivacity in his performance. Of the disciples, only Alexis Rodney’s Simon really stands out, but Joe Doyle’s Judas is a somewhat different take on the role. Of the rulers, Eoin Macken’s Herod Antipas and Rufus Sewell’s Caiaphas are both fine schemers with Stephen Moyer a little less distinctive as Pontius Pilate. But the women of the story are all standouts: Emmanuelle Chriqui as the scheming Herodia, Stephanie Leonidas as the spoiled Salome, Klára Issová as a worshipful Mary Magdalene, and Reymonde Amsallem as a loving Mary.



Video Rating: 5/5  3D Rating: NA

The program’s widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This is one of the most outstanding looking Blu-rays of a television program currently available with astounding sharpness and consistently applied contrast making for a reference quality picture. Color is rich and well under control with believable skin tones. Black levels are likewise deep and inky. The program has been divided into 40 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix betrays its television origins with a less than enveloping sound design overall. Trevor Morris’ background score by far gets the most attention in the surround channels while split effects are more frontcentric than divided among the fronts and rears. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.



Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

National Geographic Promotional Featurettes (HD): a series of eighteen brief vignettes featuring members of the cast talking about their characters and director Christopher Menaul and producer Aidan Elliott talking about their aims for the production. Some of the same soundbites appear in more than one vignette, and all are loaded with clips from the feature.

  • What’s It Like to Play Jesus? (1:57) Haaz Sleiman comments
  • Getting into Character with Haaz Sleiman (2:05)
  • Stephen Moyer on Playing Pontius Pilate (2:23)
  • Kelsey Grammer on Playing King Herod (2:00)
  • Stephanie Leonidas on Playing Salome (2:22)
  • Abhin Galeya on Playing John the Baptist (2:36)
  • Eoin Macken on Playing Antipas (1:52)
  • Joe Doyle on Playing Judas (1:55)
  • John Rhys Davies on Playing Annas (1:14)
  • Emmanuelle Chriqui on Playing Herodia (2:29)
  • Killing Jesus: The Costumes (2:48): actors and director comment on the importance of their wardrobes
  • The Women’s Costumes (2:35): the actresses discuss their costumes
  • Killing Jesus: The Make-Up (1:25) make-up artist Claire Ramsey comments
  • Killing Jesus: Behind the Production (1:43): producer Aidan Elliott comments
  • Filming in Morocco (1:46): the actors discuss the heat and fierce winds
  • The Director: Chris Menaul (2:11)
  • The Power Struggle of the Time (2:47) actors playing the politicians discuss their motivations
  • Behind the Scenes: Killing Jesus (3:10); director Chris Menaul remembers some challenges during filming.

 

Production Trailer (1:47, HD)

 

Promo Trailers (HD): A.D. The Bible Continues, Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Exodus: Gods & Kings.

 

Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.



Overall Rating: 3/5

Killing Jesus trods over very familiar ground in telling its story of Jesus’ mission on Earth and the political events going on in the background which would bring him down. While some may find its less reverential and more historical approach a refreshing change from the usual motif of telling this story, others may find it just misses the mark of emotional impact which one usually seeks in this kind of narrative. The Blu-ray certainly offers a reference quality picture and good audio playback for those who wish to sample this or see it again in better than cable broadcast quality.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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