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The Body

Starring Antonio Banderas, Olivia Williams, Derek Jacobi
Based on the novel by Richard Ben Sapir
Written and Directed by Jonas McCord
no website

IN SHORT: A millennium drama, a year too late. [Rated PG-13 for some violent sequences and brief language. 100 minutes]

Let us now think back to the end of 1999, when certain people believed that the first Millennium was coming to an end. Fundamentalists eagerly awaited the Second Coming of Christ; Analysts of the prophecies of Nostradamus were waiting for Armageddon and the end of the World. Cynics, like Cranky, pointed out that the First Millennium still had a year to run and when New Year's Eve 2000 hit, nothing happened. Nothing happened at New Year's 2001 either but cynics like Cranky, a Member of the Tribe, looked at the calendar and remarked "it's only a Millennium for a minority of the world. Sorry."

But movies aren't the real world and in the fantasy world of the big screen, somewhere in old Jerusalem there lives a man named Nasir Hamid (Makhram J. Khoury), who owns a hardware store and wants to dig a basement. His excavations uncover an ancient tomb -- a rich man's tomb, dated (according to the coins found in the dirt floor) from the time of Pontius Pilate. Archeologists and historians are called in, among them Sarah Golban (Olivia Williams) who discovers that the site is not an empty tomb. Behind a crack in a clay wall is a body. One of the archeologists on the scene (Derek Jacobi -- who just happens to be the priest Father Lavelle) comes out of the tomb, his faith shaken

Gee, do ya think . . .?

The Vatican sends an investigator, Father Matt Gutierrez (Antonio Banderas) to check out the scene and he, with the help of the Israelite Sarah, finds that the body is, in fact, as unique as Scripture would have it. The oxidation from iron bolts indicates crucifixion; an internationally famed pathologist, told the tomb dates from 500 B.C., tosses off a random comments like "if I didn't know better I'd say I was looking at Jesus Christ!"

OK, folks, let your imaginations run wild. Or maybe read the book, which probably stood a better chance of building a story of political consequences of this discovery. Rather than going the special effects, end of the world route that earlier movies do, writer/director Jonas McCord tries to keep The Body on an even track, focussing on the real life situations in the Middle East. Everyone want the bones and, despite the Israeli Government's efforts to deep the dig secret, everyone with a political agenda seems to know what is going on. Israeli Security bureaucrat Moshe Cohen (John Shrapnel) seek to manipulate the situation into a Cabinet post. The Palestinian intifada, led by Abu Yusef (Muhamed Bakri) want the bones to disappear just as badly, we'll keep that reason secret, and they don't care who they have to make disappear from the living to accomplish their goals. The Roman Catholic church has its own agenda, which may or may not jibe with what Father Gutierrez believes they want. Surprisingly enough, the religious discussion between Gutierrez and Golban as to the significance of the bones doesn't explode into a religious war of words. It's a fairly dry discussion and packs more relationship points than the rest of their performances.

In black and white, all this should build to a strong suspenseful yarn. Even if you're not Catholic, y'all know enough about Israeli-Palestinian problems that you can see a conflict coming a mile away. Getting in the way are seemingly endless reenactions of the Stations of the Cross that may indicate that the film's action takes place at Easter (either that or tourists love Jesusmania in the streets of the Old City) and the convenient disappearances of Israeli Army troops all provide regular story manipulation. The telling of the tale is so dry that The Body doesn't build to the climactic political and/or cultural and/or religious explosion that it could have.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Body, he would have paid . . .


Wait and rent. Banderas is fine in the title role. He's a good priest and while that means no real sexual tension, that doesn't mean that tension can't be built.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.