Movies

Movie review: ‘Messiah’

New Netflix series poses a lot of questions but squanders a chance for answers

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/5/20

What would you think if the Son of God reappeared in our midst? Today? In the Middle East? Would we even recognize Him, understand His message, or would we dismiss Him as just another cult leader or charlatan?

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Movies

Movie review: ‘Messiah’

New Netflix series poses a lot of questions but squanders a chance for answers

Posted

What would you think if the Son of God reappeared in our midst? Today? In the Middle East? Would we even recognize Him, understand His message, or would we dismiss Him as just another cult leader or charlatan?

Those are the kinds of questions the producers of the new Netflix series, “Messiah,” dance around like newbies at a fire-walk workshop. As much as they’d like to become the epicenter of a vigorous debate about the modern mindset’s ability to take something purely on faith alone — while real threats are at present emerging in the Holy Land — they drop the ball by acting cagey about what this is really all about.

The series, released on New Year’s Day and partly filmed in New Mexico, focuses on a mysterious Middle Eastern man who shows up on the streets of Damascus while ISIL tanks pull up to the highlands ready to blast its citizens into dust. The man tells anyone who might listen that God can remove the threat. Then, lo and behold, a massive haboob (dust storm) suddenly rolls in from the desert, which stops the attack and forces the tanks to withdraw.

Impressed, the man’s audience is guardedly convinced there is something about him that may be the answer to their fate.

“I’m here to tell you to throw away your assumptions about God. Stop clinging to what you think you know,” the man who identifies himself as The Word says. But, as we the audience, come to know him, al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), can be just as inscrutable as any plaster idol. That’s because al-Masih, like other messianic figures in reality and fiction, speaks in riddles that suggest a mysterious all-seeing knowledge, requiring faith without question. “In this hour, man is a rudderless boat. Cling to me,” he adds.

When A-Masih leads 2,000 followers across the desert to the border of Israel, people in government and law enforcement take notice, especially after he is arrested, thrown in a cell and interrogated by a Shin Bet officer named Aviram Dahan (Tomer Sisley). Not surprisingly, the American CIA gets involved through a investigation headed by an agent named Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan).

Then, al-Masih disappears from his cell and shows up at Temple Mount where, a viral video attests, he performs what appears to be a miracle. Afterward, he shows up in Texas just as a tornado rips through a small town that destroys everything except for a struggling Baptist church.

As the series unspools, one expects a momentum to begin to appear as its creator, Michael Petroni, lines up his cast of believers, unbelievers, politicians, investigators, and media who are all trying to make sense of what is really going on. At one point an Islamic leader says, “This man is a heretic, not a prophet.” But, the producers and writers, in their effort to make the case that faith is a tricky subject and religion even trickier, pose as much conflicting information and enigmas that any momentum toward some level of understanding is like the late comedian George Carlin mimicking a priest’s answer for everything, saying “Well, it’s a mystery.”

This show could be meaningful, especially in these times, but if it had the courage to step outside the box created by faith-based media even heathens might begin to wonder about certain things. By the way, among this show’s producers are Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”) and Mark Burnett (“Survivor”), who both are well known for their Christian-oriented media endeavors. Take from that what you will.

Tempo grade: B

“Messiah” is rated TV-MA for violence, sexuality, and language.

All 10 episodes are now available on the Netflix subscription streaming service.

Now showing in Taos

Parasite

MPAA rating: R for language, some violence and sexual content.

Taos Community Auditorium

Director Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale.

Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.

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In Korean with subtitles and some English. Join the free TCA Film Fans discussion after the Sunday matinee.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 5) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday (Jan. 6-11) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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MPAA rating: R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

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It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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