After the success of Killing Lincoln it was only a matter of time National Geographic Channel would commission Killing Kennedy and Killing Jesus, the next two books in Bill O'Reilly's assassination anthology, would follow. But not only have they have been done in successive year, they have also gotten bigger in scope. The first one was mostly focused on narrator Tom Hanks with Dateline type quality recreations in the background. For Killing Kennedy, they actually were able to recruit a name actor, Rob Lowe (okay, not the biggest get considering this is the same guy who said yes to a Lifetime movie about Scott Peterson) while the movie looked like a legitimate made for television movie.
National Geographic Channel raised the bar again for Killing Jesus. Sure it is no Ben Hur, but you can definitely check out the production value. Though they went unknown for the titular character (some dude named Haaz Sleiman... looking at IMDB, oh hey, he was in an episode of Veronica Mars), that are a few recognizable faces. Kelsey Grammer shows up as King Herod, the first person who tries to kill Jesus. Do not worry, this is not a full bio-flick on the life of Jesus (NBC's A.D.: The Bible Continues will probably go more in depth on that) as the film quickly fast forwards thirty years to Jesus first meeting Simon.
Getting the top line in the movie is Stephen Moyer (who really need to redeem himself in his first role since somehow being more stiff than Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music Live) as the man who sentences Jesus to death (um, spoiler alert?) Pontius Pilate. Rufus Sewell (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Emmanuelle Chriqui (You Don't Mess With the Zohan) play characters in the shadows who put Jesus's Crucifixion into motion. And for anyone who wanted to know what Irisa from Syfy's Defiance looked like sans her alien makeup, she also makes an appearance in the film (weirdly as Chriqui's daughter despite their six year age difference).
The previous Killing movies focuses as much on the eventual assassins as it did the titular characters, but focus of Killing Jesus remains mostly on the Son of God despite the three hour run time. We have all heard the story of Jesus before and I assume it will be getting a large chuck of screen time during A.D. I was hoping we would be getting more information on the conspiracy happening behind the scenes that led to his death than the story of his life that everyone who had been to Sunday School already know. Still Killing Jesus will be a huge success, probably beating the previous two movies in viewers. Though he is the least know of the series, I am actually looking forward to the inevitable Killing Patton, because that is a story I really do not know much about and will probably learn a lot of new information, unlike the fairly predictable and already well known story of Killing Jesus.
Killing Jesus airs Sunday at 8:00 on the National Geographic Channel.