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Last Days in the Desert offers enough stately grandeur and spiritual exploration to offset an occasionally ambiguous narrative.
All Critics (70)
| Top Critics (18)
| Fresh (54)
| Rotten (16)
The performances feel unadorned by affect or any contrivance. It's simply the emotions and the words that matter, offered up to contemplate in a meditative cinematic state.
At a time when cynical, pandering 'faith-based' movies have gained an extraordinary foothold at the box office, it should be exhilarating to see a genuinely provocative movie about the trials and tribulations of Jesus Christ. It isn't.
"Last Days in the Desert" soon expands into a meditation on such themes as fathers and sons, family responsibilities, trust, destiny and death ...
Is it scripture? No. Is it flawed, struggling, human? Yes.
Ultimately "Last Days in the Desert" never quite hits its stride as either an art piece or a biblical variation.
A quietly compelling portrait of the human side of Jesus, wrestling with his doubts while wandering through the Judean desert.
The Christian evangelical subculture will likely find the film too esoteric, too extra-biblical, and too challenging ... The indie art-house audience will likely find the film too spiritual, too biblical, too Christian. As such, I loved it.
The desert setting is stunning throughout, and though there is a fair bit of trudging through the sand and gazing towards the horizon to endure at the start, Garcia's haunting, contemplative picture eventually draws one in and does not let go.
The film does not feel like it gives sufficient exploration of the temptation of Christ, but there is no denying the deep spirituality and thought-provoking nature of it.
A visually powerful film that seeks to be a deeply human reading of man. [Full review in Spanish]
A film that shows simplicity when its background is very complex. [Full review in Spanish]
The movie advances towards a synthetic, resonant, terrestrial and enigmatic epilogue that raises the scope of this paradoxical secular film about faith. [Full review in Spanish]
Last Days in the Desert was written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia and stars Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Prequels) as Yeshua (Jesus). The story is an original concept taking place during Jesus' 40 days of wandering through the desert to pray and reflect. When he comes across a small family trying to make a living in the wasteland and going through their own struggles, he is challenged by the Devil (also McGregor) to resolve the conflict so that all sides win.
Ewan McGregor is no stranger to Indie films, but this was a very unique role for him to take on. Portraying Jesus on screen always comes with criticism, but having to also play the Devil appearing in Jesus' form adds a whole new layer of complicated. However, he does a great job of making each character distinguishable. I was very intrigued by what might be one of the most human interpretations of Jesus I've seen as we watch Yeshua struggle with temptation and anger. The thematic elements and parallels between Yeshua and the family are clear. A subtle yet beautiful film score helps tie the whole movie together.
While all of these things work in theory, the story really isn't interesting. Once the theme of the film is identified, the rest becomes artsy, obvious, and sluggish. While the cinematography is truly breathtaking, it felt like The Revenant in that there were a few too many environmental camera pans.
If you enjoy movies with religious aspects and themes, you'd probably get a lot out of Last Days in the Desert. However, impatience will get you nowhere here.
Final grade: C+
The cast is up for the game but writer /director Rodrigo Garcia's consideration of the Christ's battle in the desert with Satan ultimately underwhelms, the confrontation muted behind a imagined meeting with a family (it coulda happened) struggling with their own demons and Jesus as their Shane. On the whole the ideas needed more time in the kitchen.
If you can get past British accents from Caucasian, "first-century Semites", I would highly recommend what might be the least preachy depiction of Jesus next to "Life of Brian". While exploring themes that were much less subtly touched on in "The Last Temptation of Christ", "Last Days in the Desert" is a nuanced examination of Jesus' internal philosophy. What might be more interesting was Ewan McGregor's dual role as Jesus/Lucifer - their dialogues are the meat and potatoes of the film. As suggested by the title, the film is set after the worst of Jesus' temptations during his 40 day fast in the wilderness. His final trial is a distillation of the human condition embodied by a family that has resigned themselves to the desert. Many theological and philosophical hi-jinks ensue, and someone farts. It is a relatively innocuous film by moderate Christian standards, obviously since there weren't massive protests against it (probably much to it's marketers' chagrin). Anyone who enjoys grand cinematography and show-not-tell story-telling will definitely enjoy the film for what it is, and there's enough ambiguity and depth to justify a second if not third viewing. However, if you are looking for some miraculous, consummatory depiction of the life of the biblical Christ, stick to the torture porn that is "The Passion of the Christ".
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