Despite being churlishly described at the time as 'I Was a Teenage Jesus' (in reference to the youth rebellion of Rebel Without a Cause), this is one of the most interesting screen versions of the Gospels. As so often in the work of script-writer Philip Yordan, the central conflict is seen in terms of political struggle and betrayal; detailing the Jews' rebellion against the oppressive power of Rome, it elevates Barabbas in particular to the status of an almost proto-Zionist nationalist leader, and the dynamics of the narrative are presented as the consequence of wide-ranging historical movements rather than the whims of charismatic individuals. As a result, some of the performances appear to lack depth, but one can't deny the effectiveness of Miklós Rózsa's fine score, and of Ray's simple but elegant visuals which achieve a stirring dramatic power untainted by pompous bombast. Despite producer Samuel Bronston's meddlesome editing, in fact, it's an intelligent, imaginative movie devoid of conventional Hollywood pieties.
Cast and crew