Anthony's Film Review
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson's film about Jesus is controversial yet well made with graphic realism...
The Passion of the Christ is a religious drama film that focuses on Jesus of Nazareth, a prime figure of the Christian and Catholic faiths. But rather than present the life story of Jesus from his birth to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the film centers on the final part of his life, starting with the moments before his capture by the Romans, with the help of the disciple Judas who betrays Jesus for a bag of silver. This approach is certainly as interesting as a sweeping epic that covers an entire lifespan. Instead of Jesus's final hours told in a small segment of a life story, we have a two-hour film presenting that same segment in more detail, so that we can slowly absorb it all. (Note: This film does have a few flashbacks of Jesus earlier in his life, but overall, the focus is his end.)
Given how widespread the influence of Jesus has been around the world for many centuries, his story is familiar to many, so I won't bother with providing a partial plot summary. Instead, what I'll talk about is the overall look and feel of the movie. The first thing I'll say about it is that that it's a nice portrayal and adaptation of a classic biblical story. Mel Gibson, whose career began with acting in a variety of action, drama, and comedy films, now assumes the director's helm for The Passion of the Christ. It's quite a transition, but thankfully, this film shows that he can go from acting to directing without a hitch.
If I had to describe one thing that really stood out in this film, it's the realism. For one thing, no dialogue is spoken in modern English. Much of it is in the ancient language of Aramaic, with English subtitles. Watching characters speak in that tongue felt like a trip back in time. There's also the film's production and costume design that add to the realism. Let's not forget the entire cast, including Jim Caviezel as Jesus, who play all of their parts well. Overall, there's definitely as sense of authenticity with this story set in the distant past.
Now I discuss what is perhaps the film's most controversial aspect: graphic violence. When Jesus is brutally whipped, forced to wear a crown of thorns, collapsing while hauling a huge cross, and nailed to the cross itself, he is experiencing tremendous pain while exhibiting blood and open wounds all over his body. Some people will no doubt find this upsetting, especially when they're accustomed to teachings that emphasize Jesus's wisdom more than his suffering during the crucifixion. It's understandable. At the same time, torture of any sort is inherently excruciating, so a violent portrayal of the torture in this movie is merely a realistic depiction of it, rather than an exaggeration. Plus, if it is said that Jesus died for everyone else's sins, so having the torture be this violent on screen may illustrate the tremendous amount of pain Jesus had to endure for that purpose.
There are other controversial elements in The Passion of the Christ, particularly those related to historical and biblical accuracy and possible overtones of anti-Semitism. I'm not going to comment on these too much since I'm not a scholar in any of these areas. I will say this, though. When I saw the scene where a Roman governor expresses reluctance to prosecute Jesus, dismissing him as simply a crazed man, while a Jewish high priest demands that Jesus be put to death for blasphemy, I couldn't but think, "Uh oh. Is this where members of the Jewish community start to feel uneasy about this movie and its director?"
In any event, I enjoyed The Passion of the Christ. I wasn't sure if I would appreciate it because I don't follow the same religion and I was wary of the graphic violence, but it turned out I didn't have to worry. I liked the film just as I would with any other film with engaging storytelling, emotional power, and stunning visuals. I'll even say that one can enjoy it regardless of religious affiliation. Just don't recommend it to young children and to people who are squeamish about violence. All in all, The Passion of the Christ is a solid film about religion and a solid film in general.
For more information about The Passion of the Christ, visit the Internet Movie Database.