The timeless tale of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, has been told time and again, but rarely told from the correct historical perspective. Mary, Joseph, and their families were real people with real struggles as they lived as poor people under the cruel dictatorship of Rome. Elizabeth and Zechariah were a real couple who struggled with a real problem of not being able to have children. The shepherds were also real people, living on the outskirts of society and shunned by the importantly religious. Herod Agrippa was paranoid power mongrel who held his small locus of control in a firm grasp. Yet his perceived power was no match for the divine plan of Yahweh. The Magi were real truth-seekers who wanted to know the true meaning of the celestial anomaly they followed. The lives of these characters all intersected in an epic moment in history when God stepped into the world He created in the form of an infant at the unlikeliest time and revealed Himself to the unlikeliest of people. This story is not just for the holidays, but for every day, to remind us not only of God’s redemptive plan for humanity, but also to remind us that God works in ways we cannot even comprehend.
Production Quality (3 points)
Just as Jesus was born into obscurity, this film was created in obscurity and unfortunately still remains largely obscure in Christian circles. But there is no reason for this. Starting off, the camera work is superb in Nativity Story, as is the video quality. The sound quality is above par, and the musical score enhances the viewing experience. There is CGI used, but it is used properly. The editing is excellent. The surroundings and locations are authentic to first-century Judea, making for a realistically gritty experience. This film joins an elite group of Biblical films as the only ones to capture the gritty reality of ‘Bible times’. In short, there is nothing negative about this film’s production—it has every element needed to be perfect.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
As previously mentioned, this is not your children’s Bible nativity story. Life was hard for Joseph and Mary, and the political climate was tumultuous. Violence was a weekly occurrence and finances were very scarce. Nativity Story correctly depicts all of these historical elements. Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, their families, Herod, the Magi, the shepherds, and everyone else are all very authentic characters that are accessible. Too many times, Biblical films depict characters as lofty and otherworldly, but this group of characters is your everyday working poor or political elite. The dialogue is outside the norm of Bible movies, but it pays off. There are unique psychological\spiritual elements throughout that make this movie stand apart from other Christmas stories. The one tiny complaint that keeps this film from being perfect is the fact that it slightly bends historical fact to make certain plot elements fit together. However, this is still a masterful piece of screenwriting. It captures the epic feel that this story needs to have and translates it in a way that all audiences will enjoy.
Acting Quality (3 points)
Nativity Story, in keeping with its usual themes, also schools Bible filmmakers in how to cast a film that is supposed to depict Middle Eastern characters. Not a single British accent is heard among this cast, as each actor and actress is exquisitely placed into a superbly appropriate role. The costuming is extremely realistic, thankfully forsaking those horrid church play robes. Emotions are felt and lines are delivered excellently. We really cannot stop saying good things about every part of this film: it is a force to be reckoned with.
Nativity Story earns an x-factor point for being generally awesome and for portraying an important concept in a great way. It stands apart in a dismal holiday genre and owns the Biblical genre like a boss. It shows not only what a Bible film should look like but also what the world Jesus was born into looked like. It brings the real historical nature of the Nativity into your living room and presents it in a way that makes you want more rather than to reach for the remote. Instead of watching those ridiculous ‘traditional’ films every holiday season, watch this one.
Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points