Film Review: ‘Revival!’ (2018)

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Stars: Mali Music, Harry Lennix, Dawnn Lewis and Chaka Khan.
Director: Danny Green
Distributor: TriCoast Worldwide

“Well, what’s the good news?”

–  “Jesus is on his way.”

Think you know Jesus? Think again. From stage to location, via green screen and back, Revival! is a musical epic of biblical proportions. Though another telling of the gospel of John the Apostle, this latest religious masterpiece is far from your usual Sunday service. Featuring an almost entirely black cast, Revival! Is a delightfully fresh presentation of Jesus’ highs, lows and all-around greatness.  

For a musical to truly succeed, it needs to be superbly fantastic in two areas: original songs and set pieces. If the songs and dance routines pose little to be remembered, then what’s the point? Thankfully, Revival! delivers in both departments – gospel has never sounded better! But the greatest aspect? You don’t have to be a believer or a Christian to enjoy the music or film in general. Revival! is one of the few Christian musicals that doesn’t feel exclusive to the Christian community, but instead, is produced with an ambiance making every viewer feel welcome.  

Because Revival! switches between sound stage, location and green screen, the viewing perspectives drastically vary all throughout. In these transitions, the ambiance suggests that you could be watching three different films or three different production stages of a film – it is truly surreal, yet incredibly engaging. The segments on stage lack the feel of a live stage production, but instead possess the look of a stage-based scene from a narrative feature. It is, however, excusable for an experience of brief confusion during these transitions between settings. From location to stage, it is possible that this transition could understandably be read as the passage or journey of the characters from the gospel into the real world. And the elaborate usage of the green screen – featuring the inclusion of the Hollywood sign – can be understood as a way to blend the contemporary with the past, thus suggesting the stories of Jesus to be timeless. 

To little surprise, the performance of Jesus by Mali Music is incredible. Like a rendition of Jesus we’ve never seen before. But Mali’s miracle worker is not the standout performance, as that crown belongs to Harry Lennix’s Pilate, the host with the most. With a god-like presence when breaking the fourth wall and internally within Revival!’s story also, Pilate is a gem of a character. Additionally, one of Revival!’s other great performances comes in the form of another antagonist, Satan himself (Ahmed Ahmed). The character Satan, like many others in Revival!, succeeds in both presentation and performance. From a controlling child to a sleazed-up gangster, this contemporary presentation of Satan is fascinating, as is Ahmed’s performance.  

As the last days of Jesus have been covered extensively over time, be it in Jesus Christ Superstar or a generic TV-Movie, for a contemporary film to succeed with this subject matter, there absolutely has to be an array of freshness for it to be welcomed by audiences, especially an audience whose key preference of  interest is the art of filmmaking, and Jesus second. Thank god (pardon the pun), it works. It really works. Could we be witnessing a miracle?

Ultimately, Revival! is one of the greatest achievements in religious filmmaking. Danny Green’s biblical epic is an ambitious project complete with riches. From performance to design to message, this film is a complete triumph from start to finish. Regardless of one’s race or religion, Revival! is a powerhouse of positivity ready to be worshipped by all.

Many thanks to TriCoast Worldwide for the pleasure of this film.

4 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image, By Source, TriCoast Worldwide, Fair Use 

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