Paul, Apostle of Christ

Joyce and I got to see an advanced screening of Paul: Apostle of Christ followed by a panel including Andrew Hyatt (writer/director), Eric Groth (executive director), T.J. Berden (producer), and James Faulkner (Paul) moderated by David DiCerto at the Sheen Center.

The story takes place during the Apostle Paul's final days. After his season of house arrest, described in Acts 28, he has been put into the Mamertine Prison in Rome. There his traveling companion and author of the third Gospel, Luke finds him and asks him questions about his journeys in order to write the Book of Acts. It was inspired by 2 Timothy 4:11, which is believed to have been written from the Mamertine Prison: "Luke alone is with me."

The plot revolves around their relationships with each other, those who guard them, and Priscilla and Aquila (played by Joanne Whalley and John Lynch) who are guarding Christians from persecution by the Romans.

The film is a rich banquet of excellence. The writing, acting and cinematography are all top shelf, pulled together by Affirm Films, the Sony company that produced films like Risen, The Grace Card, Heaven is for Real, and War Room.

Often, when films are produced, actors come from far and wide, and day players are only on set for literally one day. Faulkner was overjoyed that they flew all of the key actors to set in Malta for a table reading of the script before film production began. They also utilized acting coach John Kirby, who helped me direct several plays. Those investments paid off in the tight ensemble work.

The acting of Faulkner and Caviezel is fully fleshed out, despite the fact that Faulkner said he was pulled in without a lot of prep time. After four decades of experience, he said, "The conduit of imagination is readily available." Still, his favorite scene was one in which all of his lines were a voiceover he didn't have to memorize! The voiceover comes from one of Paul's epistles, but to say which would be a spoiler!

This is Caviezel's first biblical epic since playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, and he has said that he chose to do this one because he saw the humanity of the characters portrayed honestly. Hyatt said while directing Caviezel he often thought he was watching him playing Jesus playing Luke. Certainly the immersive work Caviezel put into playing the Lord has brought depth to his role as the writing doctor, an element of Luke's background which is utilized in a powerful subplot.

Faulkner's first performances were in the choir of the Royal College of Church Music at Addington Palace, but he passed the mic when a question of faith was asked. It seems that playing Paul has stirred up his early beliefs. He said he has a deep respect for Christianity and he hoped that by taking part he could re-engender respect for it. He said, "I'm tired of Christianity being denounced and other faiths being touted, and that's why I did the film." There are brief images of immolation, Christians being burned to light the streets at night, something Faulkner said is still being done to Christians today.

Paul: Apostle of Christ is saturated with Scripture, something that is nicely highlighted by the recurring phrase, "Write that down," which Paul often says to Luke. That phrase was added through improvisation during the filming process.

Unfortunately I went in thinking that the film would include lots of flashbacks from The Acts (which I perform as a one-man play), so I kept waiting for the film to get to those. It does include a few flashbacks, but they're artfully chosen snapshots of Saul's persecution of followers of Christ, leading up to his Damascus Road experience.

When they opened up the mics I was the first one up, asking why they didn't include more miracles. The producers said that they chose to cover a tight timeline, and also, because they had a modest budget, they didn't want them to come across as cheesy. In one case, in order to ratchet up the drama, there was a choice not to show a miraculous healing, and it was quite an effective sequence.

I'm looking forward to seeing it a second time so I can better appreciate it for what it is, rather than waiting for it to become what it is not. Also, we saw an unfinished version before color correction, the final score, and some additional dialogue, which we read as subtitles. So I'm looking forward to the final cut.

There is a subplot in which Priscilla and Aquila are pulled in different directions and imply that the Lord may be calling the married couple to part ways. Thankfully this is only a plot device that is resolved, without implying that the Lord would ever call a couple to divorce.

There is also quite a lot of Roman idol worship depicted, and in one scene a man pours blood over himself. It's a powerful reminder that God has planted eternity in the hearts of all, and that even pagan Roman pantheism had a concept of our need to be covered by the blood of a sacrifice. Still, it could be a disturbing image for some.

It's rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images. For more details (which reveal some spoilers) visit PluggedIn's review.

To watch the trailer and short documentaries about the film's faithfulness to Scripture, click the arrows below, or if you've received this as an email, visit

There are still openings for the 2018 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

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