The Passion of the Christ movie review, movie poster
The Passion of the Christ movie poster

The Passion of the Christ
Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci

Directed by Mel Gibson
Rated R
for sequences of graphic violence

out of Stars, Movie Grade: A
movie poster movie trailer
Browse our Passion Reel-Faces Page: The Film vs. The History

Theatrical Release: February 26, 2004
Running time: 127 minutes

by Kevin Lang

I had the fortunate opportunity to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ three days before its initial release on Ash Wednesday. I entered the theater with mixed expectations, wondering how a film shrouded in such hype and controversy could possibly overcome all of the criticisms that have surrounded it. Often coming from sources who have yet to see the film, these blatant attacks often attempted to condemn both the film and its director, Mel Gibson. This included magazines like Entertainment Weekly, who called Gibson a "reckless, unapologetic artist." The magazine filled its February 20, 2004 cover story with statements like, "Amazing: With a single film, a Hollywood icon teeters on the brink." In the end, it was an all-to-obvious attempt to absorb more readers into the brewing controversy. It was pathetic at best. Yet, I am glad that such controversy has surrounded the film. Controversy arouses curiosity, and curiosity is what will bring countless numbers to theaters. I myself viewed the film with a small audience that included three Jehovah Witnesses, a religious group that you might think would be the first to stay away from a film about Christ.

The Passion of the Christ was a deeply moving, graphic retelling of Christ's final hours, from his capture to his death. Mel Gibson created a vivid masterpiece that was not just a 'religious' film meant for a religious audience. It was a movie that will affect you deeply, no matter what religious group you belong to. Not only was the film a religious drama, it was a human drama, as it told of a Mother's love for her son, and a man's ultimate sacrifice for the people that he cared for. It also in turn expressed their sympathy and gratitude toward him. This was especially conveyed through the relentless support of his family, his close friends, and Mary Magdalene (Monica Bellucci).

In one scene, a woman (Veronica) found her way through a group of soldiers to offer Jesus a towel to wipe the blood from his face. When the Roman soldiers saw her, they threw her back to the crowd. Jesus looked at her as he began to carry the cross again. There exchange needed no subtitles. Under a swelled face covered in blood, Jesus' thankfulness and love were conveyed perfectly by actor Jim Caviezel.

Much of the film played out this way. Each shot was painted so well with stunning imagery that what the audience saw needed no dialogue to be conveyed. This included a scene where Roman soldiers were torturing Jesus. As his Mother (Maia Morgenstern) and Mary Magdalene watched in horror, their expressions and actions perfectly communicated their emotions to me. It reminded me of one of the first lessons that I learned in writing class. Show, don't tell. As Jesus' Mother knelt down and wiped his blood off the stone ground, I immediately felt her compassion. It was as close as she could come to helping him at that moment.

The movie didn't strictly confine itself to the final hours of Jesus' life. Flashbacks helped to offer a better picture of the film's central character. This included a carpentry scene with Jesus and his Mother, and a scene where Jesus protected Mary Magdalene from being stoned. It was a nice way to break up the final moments in Jesus' life, which were a little heavy to watch at times.

There has been some concern raised by parents whether or not to bring their children to see The Passion of the Christ. What I can tell you is that it will probably be one of the most violent, if not the most violent movie you have ever seen. However, the violence stayed within the context of the story. It was not random, and it did not exist without significance. My advice to parents would be to avoid taking children who are too young to comprehend the significance of the violence. If you are bringing a preteen or a child to the movie, make sure that they are familiar with the story of Christ before seeing the film.

In the end, The Passion of the Christ left a significant impression on me. Frankly, I was rendered speechless. My girlfriend, who was sitting next to me in the theater, turned her head towards me several times, before simply stating, "I don't know what to say…wow." I didn't discuss the film with anyone until several hours later. We didn't discuss it in detail until the following evening. The Passion of the Christ is a film that will move you. It will remind you. It will captivate you, but most importantly, it will not easily let you forget.

"The Passion of the Christ" Review written February 23, 2004, CTF.

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