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Paul, Apostle of Christ | 2018 | PG-13 | - 1.5.2

A Greek physician (Jim Caviezel) travels to Emperor Nero's dungeon where the Apostle Paul (James Faulkner) is tortured and held as a scapegoat for the burning of Rome. The physician convinces Paul to allow him to record the apostle's testimony for Christ. Also with Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley, John Lynch and Noah Huntley. Directed by Andrew Hyatt. One line is shouted in an unknown foreign language without translation. One character has a heavy accent as he speaks English. [1:45]

SEX/NUDITY 1 - A man and a woman hug in two scenes. A woman kisses a man on the cheek. A man kisses a woman on the forehead.
 A man in an ancient Roman restaurant holds a woman by the waist and tells another man he will "get him one" (implying a prostitute), and the second man declines.
 A man in the street wears only a loincloth and a chain between his wrists behind his back; we see his bare back, chest, shoulders, arms, thighs and knees as a soldier tosses liquid on him (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details).


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - A man wearing a loincloth is drenched in oil as another man that is harnessed to a wall is drenched in a bucket of oil; we see a lighted torch come near and the camera cuts away as we hear a scream and we then see a close-up of the man's face screaming and we see reflections of glowing fires below the frame.
 A crowd of people throw stones at the camera, which cuts to a kneeling man with blood running down his forehead; in close-up we see blood flowing in a stream and pools on the ground. A dozen men gather wide, long swords and attack two guards who fall dead (no blood or wounds show) and they try to break a prisoner out, but the prisoner refuses to go, stating that love is the only way to overcome the Romans. An official says that he received permission from Hebrew chief priests to arrest and kill all Christians in Rome; a slow-motion, silent flashback shows men, women and children running out of dwellings and into dirt roads, a soldier knocks down a man and a woman and then drags the woman off-screen by the hair, he grabs her head and smashes it to a point off-screen and we hear that men, women and children died as the camera cuts to an old man asleep, waking with a start from a nightmare that was the flashback. An elderly man and a younger man take communion with bread and wine in a prison cell before one man goes out to a beheading block where a soldier places the man's head and another man with a long sword approaches; the camera pans up as the executioner swings the sword down toward a point below the frame (it is implied that the man on the block was beheaded, but that part of the scene is silent); the camera cuts to the man standing in wilderness, bewildered and facing a crowd of people that he has killed, all smiling at him (Heaven is implied) as they embrace him and a man on the horizon wearing a long cloak and hood approaches (likely Jesus) as the scene ends. A young girl kneels and prays as a man approaches her from behind with a club (we never see an attack); it is implied that he killed her for being a Christian. Outside a dungeon in a hallway a guard strikes a man below the frame with a whip handle and we hear a loud grunt. A soldier in a prison courtyard knocks down an old man and kicks him in the side as the man grunts and groans and an official says, "Twenty lashes for the old man" (we see the man lying on a dungeon floor with deep red gashes covering his shoulders and back). A man carries a 12-year-old dead boy into a communal house and lays him on a table (we see blood caked heavily on his nose, mouth, chin, and neck) as a woman screams and sobs over him. A man is dragged on his back by two Roman soldiers and we see his feet scraping through dirt and gravel in close-up. A man kicks another man in the stomach, and a second man kicks the target in the side as he hits the ground with a loud groan. An elderly man receives one whip lash on his clothed back and does not flinch.
 Men, women, and children held in a cell for feeding to the lions at the Roman Circus scream when they hear they will die in the morning until a man gathers them near and tells them the pain will be brief and then they will be with Jesus; in the morning, we hear lions roar and see the people in the cell, praying and they walk calmly through a doorway, ending the scene (we later hear that they all died and Heaven is celebrating their coming).
 A Christian woman enters a communal house, hysterically crying and covered with blood over her face, throat, hands and forearms; she cries that Roman soldiers broke into her house and killed her baby. A man looks down a narrow street where charred bodies have been harnessed to the walls on both sides at close intervals, all the bodies burning as "Roman Candles" to light the street. A doctor turns a sick teen girl onto her side and asks for a knife; the girl screams as the doctor cuts into her side at the kidney (we cannot see the cut) and we see the doctor washing out the cut from behind the girl. A flashback shows a man collapse on a road, grasping and crawling because his eyes no longer see until a bright light flashes on him and a voice says that it is Jesus and the scene cuts to the stricken man sitting with a blindfold covering his eyes as he says, "I deserve death." Several flashbacks show close-ups of bloody hands and a teen boy at a writing desk with blood covering the top of the desk, papers, and his hands and forearms. We see an elderly man limping and stumbling several times. In his cell, he says, "The devil speaks in the darkness."
 A pagan altar contains many candles and a bloody raw animal leg; a man drenches his hands in blood from a large bowl, then pours the bowl of blood over his head and face. We see a row of dead chickens in close-up, hanging in a market stall.
 A Roman soldier states that Nero set fire to Rome, burned half the city down, blamed Christians for the fire, and began imprisoning, torturing and killing all of them. A man says, "Men, women, and children are ripped apart by wild beasts" (in the Roman Circus); and that women are forced into prostitution. We hear that Paul the Apostle was held in a dark dungeon as the leader of the fire starters, was whipped, and began losing his sight. A Roman man says, "Those Christians are not even fit to be Roman Candles." We hear that a Roman prefect has made sacrifices of blood and coins to several pagan gods. A doctor confirms that an often-whipped spine never completely heals, making it difficult to sit down. A woman says that Roman soldiers leave widows on the streets to starve and discard babies with birth defects into the trash. A young man becomes angry and demands vengeance against Roman soldiers through fire and killing with swords until a male community leader tells him taking up arms is forbidden and anyone wanting to do so must leave. An official says that a Christian man is often described in gossip as a magician, a god, and a madman; and that Christians are often beaten, killed, and raped.
 Several scenes feature a sick teen girl on a bed with her mother crying beside her and the mother and father argue about the girl and the husband insists that pagan gods will heal her if he sacrifices enough of the right items to them; the girl worsens and holds her painful abdomen and side until the mother flies into a rage and insists a certain Christian physician be brought. A physician sneaks into a cell and washes the back of a wounded man while the man grunts and coughs. A man visits a blind man, prays, lays hands on the blind man's head and eyes and the blind man is healed. A man runs to a commune, pounds on the door, and asks Christian for help; so they pray for his daughter during the night; in the morning, the girl is sitting up on the bed, smiling and healed, with sunlight shining on her face and no apparent wound.
 A man and a woman argue loudly in a street. A man and a woman argue loudly at home. Two men argue loudly in a commune. Two men argue loudly on a street corner.
 Two dimly lit scenes feature short altars filled with candles in front of a human-like statue with indistinct features; a hand reaches into one of the scenes and places a stack of coins on the altar.


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LANGUAGE 2 - Name-calling (fools, old man, pathetic, malicious, ugly, rubbish, drunks, cripples, cantankerous), 14 religious exclamations (e.g. My God, Thank God, Praise God, Who Are You Lord, We Belong To God, We Come In The Name Of Christ, Father Forgive Them, I Saw Christ In You, The Lord Be With You, We Trust In God, the Lord's prayer recited by two groups of people and one individual in a sequence, Jesus Christ is mentioned dozens of times in conversation, but these mentions are not in exclamations).


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SUBSTANCE USE - A physician gives a prostrate man a cup of unknown medicine for some sort of illness, and we see clouds of incense rising from a pagan altar set up to ask for healing in a couple of scenes. A few scenes show women and men pouring wine into cups and a few men drink the wine at midday and later meals, two men in a café drink wine in one scene and hold cups of it in another scene, two men drink wine together for communion, and a man takes a drink of wine and spits it out (we see wine spit to somewhere below the frame).


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Love, forgiveness, community, family, rebellion, change, pagan Rome's genocidal campaign against Christians, Nero's fire, scapegoating, the Roman Circus, murder, execution, beheading, discipleship, commitment, historical context of first century scripture, persecution, suffering, martyrs, hope, miracles, religious conversion.

MESSAGE - Paul of the Book of Acts converted from a murderer of Christians to their leader and a teacher of love and forgiveness.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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