Judas Project, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: -1

Writer, director, producer James Barden has accomplished with THE JUDAS PROJECT what many of us have been hoping and praying for. He has created a commercial theatrical film with a strong Christian message that is just as appealing as current popular secular films. China Cry achieved this effect to a degree, but THE JUDAS PROJECT is more powerful and impressive. Its theme is unique and intriguing: how would Jesus be received if he appeared on earth for the first time today instead of 2,000 years ago? This makes THE JUDAS PROJECT an allegorical account of Jesus' life, but it captures the essence of his life, his teachings and his spirituality in a fascinating way.

It takes place on the beaches and interior of eastern Georgia and North Carolina in present-day America. Jesus appears as a young man named Jesse (John O'Banion). He has acquired a small band of followers with names like those of Jesus' disciples: John, Peter, Jude, etc. Jesse teaches and heals common folk, and once dramatically restores a drowned man to life. Jesse also teaches his disciples, who experience his transfiguration in radiant glory on a mountain top. Amazed and delighted, they witness his feeding a multitude on the beach with only two loaves of bread and some cheese.

Jesse and his small group attract the attention of a powerful world political leader, Arthur Cunningham (Richard Herd) and the head of a world-wide religious order, Ponerous (Jeff Corey). They secretly monitor his activities. One of Jesse's companions, Jude (Ramy Zada), empathizes with Jesse, but can't understand him. Eventually he collaborates with Cunningham and Ponerous. Anticipating the power of Jesse's personality and ministry, Cunningham and Ponerous try to persuade Jesse to join them. However, Jesse refuses and castigates them for manipulating people to enhance their own personal power. Cunningham arranges to have Jesse assassinated, but the attempt fails. One night Jude betrays Jesse, enabling a hoard of armed men to capture Jesse on the beach. Jesse and some of his followers are threatened and beaten by Cunningham and his henchmen. Then, in some moving and graphically violent scenes, Jesse is nailed to the wall of an old barn. As a storm starts to rage, most bystanders flee, including Ponerous who is soon engulfed by fire in a church cemetery. The earth quakes and graves open, releasing the spirits of the dead.

Jesse's resurrection is not shown, only a funeral march. But he is reunited with his loyal friends in a rural, wooded area. They go fishing and rejoice together. In a poignant ending, Peter, who has denied Jesse when questioned earlier, asks for Jesse's forgiveness and they embrace.

The performances and drama are outstanding, and the special effects depicting the storms, earthquakes and transfiguration are spectacular. In telling the story, Barden exercises some artistic license. Certainly the story does not include many important events in the life of Jesus. At least one event departs from the strict Biblical account when spirits rise from opened graves instead of bodies, as reported in Matthew. The film has the feel of a big budget Hollywood film, although it was produced for only $7 million. The PG-13 rating undoubtedly was required because of the graphic crucifixion scenes. Jesse is shown with bloody stripes on his back and a crown of thorns is thrust on this head. Closeup views of large spikes driven into Jesse's hands and feet are repeated later as a flashback. Some of Jesse's followers are kicked and beaten and Ponerous comes to a violent end. A spear is thrust into Jesse's side by a man who is later struck by lightning. Because of these intense scenes, the film is not appropriate for young children. Several hells and damns are inserted in the dialogue, apparently to enhance realism. THE JUDAS PROJECT is a powerful, contemporary Christian story which will be shown in thousands of secular theatres over the coming months. It is a historical movie-making event and will inspire and fascinate believers. Undoubtedly, it will profoundly affect non-believers as well.

Preview Reviewer: John Evans
Distributor: R and S Releasing, 1888 Century Park East,Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA

Summary
Crude Language: Mild - Several (5) times
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: None
Violence: Many times - Moderate and severe (kicking, striking, crown of thorns, spikes driven in hands and feet, spear in side, man engulfed in fire, implied flogging and beating, views of bloody back and face)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Barroom scene
Other: None
Running Time:
Intended Audience:

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