An all-star, large scale epic movie that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.An all-star, large scale epic movie that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.An all-star, large scale epic movie that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Max von Sydow's highlights are the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the sequence of his entry into Jerusalem and speech at the temple. In fact, I would say that for those two scenes, he outdoes many of his fellow actors that have donned the robe of Jesus. But two scenes are not enough to carry the movie. In fact, with all my respect to the impressive cast which participated in this movie, Stephens seems to have completely missed the mark when it came to casting a few of the roles: Ed Wynn of "Mary Poppins" fame as the blind man, John Wayne as a Roman centurion, and Shelley Winters as "Woman of no name." On the other hand, few actors can portray the almost fanatic mania of John the Baptist, "a voice crying in the wilderness," like Charlton Heston. Jose Ferrer also puts in a good performance as Herod Antipas, and Roddy McDowall convincing plays both a smart aleck and a reverent follower. His exchange with Jesus over collecting taxes offers one of the few somewhat humorous moments.
It is not a surprise to learn that George Stevens put so much effort into his movie. Like Mel Gibson with "The Passion of the Christ," "Greatest Story" is like a painting, with each stroke carefully put onto the canvas. However, unlike Gibson, whose characters seem right out of 1st Century Judah, there is modern quality to Stephens film. There are, however, more positive aspects to this film than negative. Besides the cinematography and the wise choice of Hendel's beautiful "Messiah", other positives are showing Mary Madgelene as traveling with the apostles (there is even a wonderful little scene where Mary annoints Jesus with oil which shows a kind of intimacy between them lacking from other versions of the story).
While some commentators have criticized the screenplay, I think it is one of the best. As much as it pains me to say this, I think casting alone made this movie less powerful. Still I recommend that everyone see it at least once.
- Aug 2, 2004