The Body

Matters of faith get raked over the coals in this political thriller set in Jerusalem, where secular politics and religious dogma are inextricably intertwined. It all begins when Israeli archeologist Sharon Golban (Olivia Williams) makes a remarkable discovery in the courtyard behind a tiny hardware store. While trying to dig a basement in his yard, the...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Matters of faith get raked over the coals in this political thriller set in Jerusalem, where secular politics and religious dogma are inextricably intertwined. It all begins when Israeli archeologist Sharon Golban (Olivia Williams) makes a remarkable discovery in the courtyard behind a tiny hardware store. While trying to dig a basement in his yard, the store's owner stumbles on an ancient tomb. Called in to examine the ruins, which clearly belonged to a wealthy man, Golban finds a coin dating from the time of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and a crucified skeleton carefully secreted behind a wall. Could these be the earthly remains of Yeshua ben Yosef, know to the modern world as Jesus Christ? If they are, then His body clearly lay moldering in its grave rather than rising on the third day — a fact which could shake the faith of millions of Christians. Alarmed, the Vatican dispatches Jesuit Father Matthew Gutierrez (Antonio Banderas) to investigate, making it fairly clear that it would be better for everyone if the bones belonged to some anonymous dead guy. And the Catholics aren't the only ones worried: Orthodox Jewish rabbis, Israeli bureaucrat Moshe Cohen (John Shrapnel) and underground Palestinian leader Abu Yusef (Muhamed Bakri) are all afraid of what will happen if word gets out that the body of Christ has been found in Jerusalem. As evidence mounts that the skeleton is the real thing, Golub and Gutierrez — who's having his own personal crisis of faith — find themselves caught in the middle of an increasingly violent controversy. Based on a 1983 novel by the late Israeli writer Richard ben Sapir, this millennial mystery follows in the tradition of films ranging from THE PASSOVER PLOT to STIGMATA — conspiracy thrillers fueled by the omens and secrets of biblical tradition. The project was been a longtime passion of first-time feature director Jonas McCord (who also wrote the screenplay), and it gets off to a pretty intriguing start before degenerating into a series of routine action sequences. Jason Flemyng's turn as eccentric Father Winstead is the standout in a sea of briskly competent performances; he doesn't have much to do, but he wears a series of unorthodox cassocks (including a remarkable peek-a-boo number) with phenomenal brio. At the opposite extreme, Sir Derek Jacobi, playing yet another priest, delivers a performance so hammy it should be studded with cloves and presented on a platter.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Matters of faith get raked over the coals in this political thriller set in Jerusalem, where secular politics and religious dogma are inextricably intertwined. It all begins when Israeli archeologist Sharon Golban (Olivia Williams) makes a remarkable disco… (more)

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