From The Morton Blog

Now on Blu-ray: Killing Jesus

By , Contributor
Killing Jesus, which originally aired on the National Geographic Channel on March 29, 2015, is now available on Blu-ray via 20th Century Fox. Political commentator Bill O’Reilly co-wrote the non-fiction book upon which the film is based. Along with his writing partner Martin Dugard, he was responsible for the previous bestsellers in the provocative series: Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln. Nat Geo aired filmed adaptations of both of those to great success, but Killing Jesus beat them—setting a ratings record for the network.

The handsomely-produced film is likely going to find the highest interest amongst Christian viewers. At 132 minutes, veteran TV director Christopher Menaul’s work might feel like a slog for those without a particularly vested interest in the life and death of Jesus Christ. He’s portrayed with considerable gravitas by Haaz Sleiman (best known for his acclaimed role in The Visitor, also notable for a recurring role on TV’s Covert Affairs). Fox has tried to hype Killing Jesus as having an “all-star” cast, but that’s not exactly true. There are, however, supporting roles by several recognizable faces, including Rufus Sewell (as Caiaphas), John Rhys-Davies (as Annas), Kelsey Grammer (as Herod the Great), and Emmanuelle Chriqui (as Herodias). As a costume drama, the piece is intermittently involving, but an interested in the Gospel is probably a prerequisite to really enjoy it.

One area in which there should be no room for debate is the technical presentation Fox offers with Killing Jesus on Blu-ray. Like many cable network-produced films, the production values are top notch. Cinematographer Ousama Rawi’s work is richly cinematic and Fox’s 1080p transfer allows us to appreciate the wealth of detail. Same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Though it isn’t an action-oriented movie, there’s a generally creative sound design throughout Killing and this suitably directional mix does a good job of highlighting it.

The special features are basically a string of 18 EPK-style mini-featurettes. They average two minute apiece for a total running time of about 38 minutes. Billed as National Geographic Promotional Shorts, at least there’s no attempt made to make this look like a hard-hitting, deep documentary. We hear from most of the primary cast members and see a bit about the costumes, shooting locations, and overall production. For fans of the film, it may be fun to delve just a little below the surface to find out more.

The Blu-ray edition also includes a Digital HD copy. Killing Jesus may be a tough sell to the secular audience, but it is a very well produced (no less than Ridley Scott is among the producers) film that contains a number of memorable performances.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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