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The Passion of the Christ Review

By Shawn McKenzie 03/09/2004

If you are looking at this review to see if I think that The Passion of the Christ is anti-Semitic, you are out of luck.  As a non-religious person, I don’t feel qualified to comment on that.  As a movie critic though, I can tell you how I felt about Mel Gibson’s latest directorial effort.


It is all about the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, with occasional flashbacks to other events in His life.  The movie starts off with Jesus Christ (James Caviezel) in the Garden of Gethsemane just after the Last Supper.  He is praying and trying to resist the temptations offered to Him by Satan (Rosalinda Celentano.)  While He does resist, one of His apostles, Judas Iscariot (Luca Lionello), isn’t so fortunate.  Judas betrays Jesus by giving his location to Caiphas (Mattia Sbragia) and other Jewish high priests, who immediately have him arrested (Judas later hangs himself after seeing some Satan-induced creepy kids and feels guilt.)  Caiphas wants Jesus executed, since he believes Jesus has committed heresy, but he doesn’t have the authority to give such an order.  In order to get around this loophole, he tells the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov) what he wants, as he’s the only one with authority to call for a crucifixion.  Pilate doesn’t do it at first, because he isn’t convinced that Jesus is a criminal, and his wife, Claudia Procles (Claudia Gerini), pleads with him to spare Jesus (because she had nightmares that hurting Jesus would be bad.)  Pilate orders that King Herod Antipas (Luca De Dominicis) decide Jesus’ fate, but the Judean leader just thinks Jesus is crazy, but not a threat.  This frustrates Pilate, but he orders his guard, Abenader (Fabio Sartor), to have him punished, not killed.  He is scourged (whipped) for a while, but the crowd still wants Jesus executed.  Pilate doesn’t want to make the decision, so he lets the Jews decide whether Jesus or the convicted murderer Barrabas (Pietro Sarubbi) should be set free.  They choose Barrabas, and Pilate orders that He be crucified.  Jesus is then forced to carry his own cross to Mount Calvary, his point of execution.  This is of course upsetting to his mother, Mary (Maia Morgenstern) and the former sinner Mary Magdalene (Monica Bellucci.)  A fellow Jew, Simon of Cyrene (Jarreth Merz), helps Jesus carry the cross up the mountain, and He is crucified.


If I have offended anyone with this plot description, I apologize.  I have no ill will against any religious group, so I had to look up the plotline to understand what I saw on the screen (no, I’ve never read the Bible, but I’m not much of a reader anyways.)


As a movie, I found it rather boring.  It was long, and slow moving.  Subtitles don’t really bother me, but this movie specifically might have kept me more interested if it hadn’t gone that direction (it was filmed with all of the actors speaking in Latin and Aramaic.)  I guess that would be like making Kevin Costner having the Indians speak English in Dances with Wolves, so I can’t fault Gibson for making this artistic choice.


Aside from the supposed anti-Semitism, the biggest complaint has been that it is one of the most violent films of all time.  I may be a bit desensitized, but I didn’t think that it was any worse than his last directorial effort, Braveheart.  I thought that both Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Irreversible, both from last year, were far more violent.  My theory is that most religious type people don’t see a lot of violent movies, so this was the most extreme thing that they had ever seen.


I suppose the acting was okay, but since it was just all about the torture, this wasn’t a movie in which an actor could stretch their talents.  Most of the actual acting was in the beginning temptation-by-Satan/betrayal-by-Judas parts and in the flashbacks.  I’ve read other more religious critics write that there were several touching moments that made them misty-eyed.  I wasn’t one of them though.


From my crash course in the events, it followed twelve of the fourteen Stations of the Cross correctly.  The only two it left out was Jesus’ meeting with the women of Jerusalem (Station 8) and His burial (Station 14.)  I guess if you are wondering if it followed the book correctly, I guess it did.

Basically, if you are religious, The Passion of the Christ will be touching, but disturbing.  I would not recommend that you bring your young kids to the movie, religious or not.  As far as the merely curious, which I believe has mostly contributed to the $200 million plus box office take, you might be bored with it.

Thanks to Century Theatres for letting me see this film.  Visit them at www.centurytheatres.com to find the location near you.

Get the soundtrack score composed by John Debney:

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Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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