4 hours 30 mins
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Revelations (mini-series) (2005)
10th Jul 05
A physicist and a nun race against time to avert the end of days.
ďIt's as probable for a tornado travelling through a junkyard to produce Buckingham Palace than for life to emerge from the Big Bang," says John Rhys-Davies, the wheel chair bound teacher at the start of Revelations, and that pretty much sets the scene for this production. The series, produced by David Seltzer (the man behind the Omen series) is a relatively well done jaunt into the world of religious mumbo-jumbo, lifted above the average with some decent SFX and some solid performances from the very experienced principal cast.
The ever likeable Bill Pullman plays a Harvard professor who has recently witnessed the murderer of his teenaged daughter captured and imprisoned. Not giving any credence to this man's claims that he can never be killed and will never bleed, he sees one of the man's fingers sliced off and the bloodless hand raised defiantly.
Natasha McElhone, on the other hand (no pun intended), plays a nun who is part of a research foundation, working as an investigator checking out unexplained phenomena with religious connections. One is the appearance of an image on a mountainside which appears to be the shadow of a cross upon which a man has been nailed. The shadow of the head moves as if the victim were alive, even looks straight at them, although there were neither clouds, nor trees, nor anything else between the sun and the mountain that could have cast it. Another phenomenon is a girl, officially brain dead after being struck by lightning, now lying in hospital, speaking Biblical verses in Latin. On more than one occasion she is given a pencil and pad and scribbles frantically, drawing a map which, itís soon revealed, links the girl to Bill Pullman's daughter, although these miraculous goings-on only happen during storms with lightning and thunder.
And so, with all the characters in place and their connections set up, the real story begins. At their first meeting, the Sister wisely advises the dubious Pullman to start contributing to religion. "All the signs and symbols are currently in place for the end of days" she says, and this is to a man who actually makes a living out of scientifically explaining away famous religious miracles. But with the all the evidence in front of him, including scribbled messages from his long dead daughter through that brain dead girlís hand, heís forced to re-evaluate his opinion. And not before time too, because when Christ and the Antichrist come down to Earth to do battle for all mankind, itís best to know whose side youíre on.
But despite a great effort, Revelations is let down by some very glaring problems. Firstly, this is no 24 with high-speed, mutating plot lines; itís a TV series that has one deliberate story to tell and itís in no rush to get there in any hurry, meaning a lot of the time the pacing is very slow, especially compared to similar movie standards. Scenes set in hospitals, and particularly those involving nuns, include many lingering teary eyed gazes, too many in fact to achieve that lump-in-the-throat quality I think they were looking for. And the science is no better; too many of Pullmanís explanations for religious happenings are rushed, or make no sense at all (such as his explanation of Jesusí walking on water), while his DNA theory to test the authenticity of a virgin birth is downright ridiculous. Similarly, the portrayal of the US justice system stretches the imagination a little too much. A father tracking down and bringing to justice his own daughterís killer is far-fetched to begin with, but then allowing that man to visit the murder privately in jail unaccompanied by any guards? Iím not too sure about that. Mind you, Iím not to sure about the fact that every evil character has big scary evil eyes, even the undercover ones, so to speak, and the good guys still canít work out who they are.
And yet, itís not all doom and gloom. Pullman is forever watchable, especially when heís in full-on pessimist mode, and McElhone is the exact opposite, making even the most unbelievable lines believable, mainly just by that twinkling smile. Or maybe she just gets the joke a little better than the rest cast, Iím not sure. Michael Masseís turn as the ever creepy Isaiah Haden is both daunting and unnerving, although itís a shame his dialogue couldnít have been a little more convincing to match his evil grimace. But donít get me started on the suitability of hiring Christopher Biggins as a catholic cardinal. What were they thinking?
But at the end of the day, it is only this showís first season. Will they do another? Well, Iím sure theyíre hoping for one, and the typically ambiguous first season finale has certainly left the story wide open. This may not reach the dizzying heights of The Omen in terms of giving you religious God-fearing willies, but with The Da Vinci Code movie in full production, it might just be the right time to make more of a TV series based on serious religious mumbo-jumbo. A-men.