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The Bible – St Paul  rating

Review: written 2006

A let-down. Interesting, but not so biblical

Don't let the title 'The Bible' fool you - this is less a straight telling of Acts, as it is a dramatic rendition of how his life must have been leading up to and following his conversion.

In doing so, the film loses much of the most potentially dramatic moments of Saul's life - Shipwrecks! Courtroom drama as he faces the Romans! Rome at its peak! Instead, the first third of the TV movie focuses on his close friendship with a Sadducee, Reuben. As a Pharisee, Saul has his disagreements, voiced by his mentor Gamaliel (Franco Nero - good to see him still around), but their friendship is close. In this movie, it is his friendship which draws him into being a persecutor of the fledgling Christian movement. Then, he has his conversion - a poorly handled montage in this movie. Thereafter, he seems to be the same character with a different opinion of Jesus, willing to stand up to his friend and the Religious police he controls. Then his preaching and his talks with Peter take over, building up to a conclusion well short of the biblical conclusion of Paul's story, just as he is about to start his ministry in Rome.

So this tale can not really be taken on its biblical merits - there is little sermonising here, and no chances taken with anything controversial - the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles is represented by a strong draft and a Minora bursting into flame. The question of the split in the church of the time is touched on, the scandal of preaching to the Gentiles and not just the Jews, but this blows over fairly quickly.

The acting lets the story down for the most part with the main players, despite the strong supporting cast - G.W. Bailey (otherwise known as the Captain from the Police Academy series) puts in a strong performance, but the leads are phoning it in, with little character arc obvious in their portrayal. Paul is just a guy who had his facts wrong and then saw the light, rather than a man who became passionate about hunting down the Christians and the became truly changed through his conversion. For drama the 'bad guy' role is shunted from Reuben the Sadducee, to King Herod, to the Romans, (Umberto Ursini makes a believable Roman thug of a tribune), back to Reuben again, with the result that there is little sense of sustained drama.

Having said that, as an imagining of a life of which so little is told in the Bible, this is a reasonable attempt, and worth watching if for nothing else than to spark some discussion. Just don't be fooled into believing this is a depiction of Scripture, but instead is 'loosely based' on it.

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