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The Passion Of The Christ /

Rated: R

Starring: James Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Rosalinda Celentano, Sergio Rubini, Mattia Sbragia Directed by: Mel Gibson

Produced by: Bruce Davey, Mel Gibson, Stephen McEveety
Written by: Benedict Fitzgerald, Mel Gibson
Distributor: Newmarket Film Group


Movie Image
Movie Image
Movie Image

     Somewhere, amidst all of the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ, is a good movie (certainly not an anti-Semitic one). While fueled debates have raged over it for the last few months, Iíve merely sat back as an observer. Not until last night did I see the current box-office smash, and I call it that in a loving way, not a deceiving one. Mel Gibsonís religious epic, which is sure to be the first of a long chain of them, given its extreme success, is one hell of a picture. During its execution, there are more than a few flaws, but the director has created somewhat of a masterwork, despite them. I suppose the most predominant of the reasons I do not think The Passion of the Christ to be one of the greatest films of all-time is because I do not observe the Christian religion. Even though I agree with this depiction of the last twelve years of Jesusí life historically, my spirituality provides a somewhat contrasting view. While The Passion of the Christ does not require oneís belief in what itís preaching, it certainly helps if they do. 

     The primary problem with the movie lies in Gibsonís central decision to only chronicle the last twelve hours of Jesusí life, only including a few flashbacks to prior times. If you are like me, and are not already completely and entirely attached to Jesus, then it takes many cracks of the whip to become affected by the material. The violence is definitely the strongest element of the movie; I jerked in horror after each blow the claiming prophet took. However, the visceral images could never overpower what should be a higher priorityóthe inspiration Jesus spawned. With only a two hour running-length, Gibson couldíve much improved his film by adding on another forty-five minutes, exhibiting the manís true leadership and righteousness. Then, even non-believers would come to more realizations quicker about the suffering Jesus endured, and allow themselves to be touched to a further extent. Nevertheless, even my stomach was vulnerable and my thoughts sorrowed after the long and brutal torture sequences.

     A secondary (and less important) flaw is to The Passion of the Christ is the way in which Gibson draws emphasis upon the terrible acts of those responsible for the horrors Jesus experienced. During the scenes of beating, I often felt only anger for his opposition, rather than pained because of what happened to he himself. Yet, the movie wants to promote forgiveness, as the Christian religion does. Jesus, himself, forgave those who violated him beyond belief, but the audience will only feel hatred for them. This, of course, is acceptable behavioróonly pure human nature. But, it seems rather contradictory to the very intent of the filmmakers, albeit somewhat insignificant to the projectís execution itself.

     I know, I know, so far Iíve only concentrated on the bad aspects of The Passion of the Christ. However, one must realize that the better a picture is, the more nagging its mistakes may seem. The most rewarding exhibition in this movie is that of the performances. Jim Cavizel is excellent as Jesus Christ and so are Maia Morgenstern as Mary and Monica Belluci as Mary Magdalene. But the performance which I believe to be the best is that of supporting actor Hristo Shopov as the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified as a result of the intense pressure he received based upon Caesarís predicted reaction to the punishment. This makes for two of the best scenes in The Passion of the Christ, both of which are perhaps tougher to experience than even the most barbaric sequences in the movie. In addition to Shopovís work, there are several more highlighting features in the film to be commended. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel made the thirty million dollar budgeted film seem as though it cost around double that. Composer John Debney created amazingly fitting music, given challenging topic he had to work with. Also, film editor John Wright did a wonderful job convincing Gibson to make some tough cuts, aside from the possible he omission of material concerning Jesusí pre-crucified life.

     Mel Gibson made a bold move in releasing The Passion of the Christ, and his motion picture is entirely worthy of the gigantic gross it has taken in. It appears that the reason he provides as to how he pulled it off isnít too farfetchedóGod was on his side in making it. This is a memorable movie even if it isnít a great one. Luckily for Gibson, memorable seems just fine.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (5.1.2004)

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