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The Body (2000)
Director: Jonas McCord

review by Ian Shutter

This is a dramatic and intriguing, if ultimately spineless (excuse that awful pun), international conspiracy thriller about science versus religion. Dr Sharon Golban (Olivia Williams, from The Sixth Sense) is an archaeologist working at a dig in Jerusalem where she discovers a skeleton hidden in a tomb. The old bones have all the marks of crucifixion and date back to the first century, and Sharon thinks they are the actual remains of Jesus Christ. When the Vatican hears about this they launch their own private investigation, sending Father Matt Gutierrez (Antonio Banderas), a priest with combat experience, into the volatile situation where Arab terrorists and militant Jesuits are deeply entrenched in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Can the belief system of the orthodox Catholic Church withstand millennial proof that their saviour was not resurrected?
   From the novel by Richard Ben Sapir, screenwriter and director Jonas McCord has created a fascinating 'what if?' scenario full of passionate faith and logical argument. The Body is at its most entertaining when Sharon challenges Matt to reassess his philosophy and commitments but, unfortunately, this mismatched couple don't stay at loggerheads for long after a terrifying bomb attack too close to the mysterious crypt to be a simple coincidence. Of the fine supporting cast, John Shrapnel is great as Israeli security chief Moshe Cohen, a wily operator with a political agenda of his own to pursue (irrespective of whether the body is that of the 'holy son', or just another victim of Roman execution), while Derek Jacobi goes suitably crazy as Father Lavelle, a priest and archaeologist tragically unable to reconcile his life of faith with this apparently new truth of an un-risen Christ.
   Although the obvious formality of the pat ending is never in any doubt, with an anticipated kidnapping and shootout finale among hilltop ruins delivering only the cheap thrills of a contractually obligated action scene, there's still more than enough contentious material here to make this wholly American style adventure movie unlikely to play well to a fundamentalist audience.
previously published in VideoVista #36
The Body
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