“Apostle Peter & The Last Supper” A Disappointing Depiction of Jesus on Film (REVIEW)
Christian films have been on a spree this year with the success of “Courageous” and quasi-Christian film, “Joyful Noise,” earlier this year. A new film, “October Baby” and Kirk Cameron’s “Monumental,” are expected to be big films upon their debut. However, for this Lent season, a historical drama is being released—Apostle Peter and The Last Supper—and is forming much curiosity. This film, documenting the last few days of apostle Peter’s life as he recounts experiences with Jesus, stars Robert Loggia, Bruce Marchiano, and Laurence Fuller and directed by Gabriel Sabloff.
Everyone loves a good historical piece. Who could not enjoy Jesus and the 12 disciples taking us back to the times of antiquity; lifting the vivid reality of the passion off the pages of the Bible? “Apostle Peter” begins with good expectations and hopeful potential, but unfortunately, it turns into a regretful disappointment.
The film begins with Apostle Peter c. 67 AD, during the time of Nero in Ancient Rome. He is brought to a prison cell for being a follower of Christ and therefore, will be executed. He is put under the care of a young, handsome soldier named Martinian.
Martinian visits the cell of Apostle Peter, where he is being kept for three days until they kill him. The young soldier is curious about the Jesus Movement because his wife has been suggesting her conversion. He too, however, is wavering in his own foundations in serving “the gods,” as he says. This launches the apostle into his own testimony to convince Martinian that Jesus is the only true God.
The film turns out to be made up of flashbacks as apostle Peter goes into and out of his moments with Jesus. He hits on the important points with the Sermon on the Mount, popular quotes from the Bible, the Farewell Sermon, and His prayer at Gethsemane. It sound interesting… doesn’t it? Now for the unfortunate parts…
The cast featured an ensemble of new actors, all of whom were decently casted—for the most part. But Marchiano, who played Jesus, was a miscast. Upon first glance, the actor does not exactly look like a low-class, Jewish-Israeli native. One who is more familiar with the Biblical text may also know that Jesus was about 33 years old when He was crucified… Marchiano seems older. His whole persona as Jesus was very Italian-American. The climatic scene of the film—the Last Supper—might induce a little giggle. Marchiano was slightly over-the-top in his performance and lacked the real passion and authority that Jesus, and anyone playing Him, should convey.
Accents in this film raised many question marks in my mind while viewing… Marchiano spoke with an American accent. Fuller, who played Martinian, spoke with a British accent. Martinian’s wife has a very Elizabethan twang to her British accent, and Processus, another soldier, also had an American accent. The difficulty in recreating ancient world in English is that, more than likely, they were not actually speaking English during that time period. So, what kind of accent should they have? There is no right answer of course; the decision is ultimately up to the director… But, I do feel the accents should be consistent among characters, and they were obviously not in “Apostle Peter.”
“Apostle Peter and The Last Supper” featured another weak point in its theological and historical accuracy. The script was very modern in its use of phrases and words like “chat.” If you are familiar with the Biblical text, one may notice little things like the fact that only the 12 disciples were listening to Jesus’ sermon on the mount when the Bible describes the scene as “crowds” gathering, (Matt. 5:1). Or, the fact that Jesus comes back from praying a second time in Gethsemane, and finds the disciples sleeping once again… Or the conversation that Martinian and his wife have… She seemed very dominant and open to speak. Wouldn’t a woman in first century Rome be more subservient and less bold in front of her husband? These are very minor things but they draw away from the more accurate depiction that could have been made.
More on the theological side, the depiction of Peter is very strong. He is an elderly man who does not fear death, but longs for eternal life with Christ. However, the film does not really explain why death does not end in death for a Christian. A lot of conclusions are met very easily… Martinian suddenly understands why Jesus died on the cross… But, the depth of the true victory we have in Christ and why Peter considers his suffering an honor was not thoroughly elucidated.
“Apostle Peter” definitely has its rough edges, but there were some redeemable qualities. For instance, in the Last Supper scene, Jesus announces that one of the 12 will betray Him, but He does not say whom. The disciples become very anxious to know if they are the one… 7 of the 12—including Peter and Judas—go into monologues that feature them speaking to Jesus alone in an empty room. Each soliloquy ends with the disciples fearfully wondering—“Jesus, is it me?” This was a very creative way to literally get into the minds and hearts of what the disciples were thinking… none of what was said in the monologues are Biblically recorded, but it still makes for some interesting cinema.
The camera quality, sets, and costumes were very good. The cinematic attributes were professionally executed and notable. The on-location scenes were pleasant as well—the mount, the Garden of Gethsemane.
Overall, the film is warm and fuzzy in the end when Martinian and Processus give their lives to Christ… although later, they walk him to his death. It provides a unique pair of lenses in which we can view the last days of Jesus. However, the film could have been much more enjoyable if Jesus was properly casted. Loggia, who played the elder Peter, was well casted. Although, small in stature, he presented the appropriate paradox of one who is small in the world, but so big in spiritual means.
A film is not an easy thing to make. Kudos to Sabloff for his first feature film debut. I would definitely watch “Apostle Peter and The Last Supper,” and try everything once.