Passion of Christ Review

by Bob Bloom (bob AT bloomink DOT com)
February 25th, 2004

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004) 3 1/2 stars out of 4. Starring Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Mattia Sbragia, Claudia Gerini, Luca Lionello and Hristo Naumov Shopov. Music by John Denbey. Director of photography Caleb Deschanel. Screenplay by Mel Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald.
Directed by Mel Gibson. Rated R. Running time: Approx. 125 mins.

Putting aside the debates that have surrounded this film for months, and looking at it solely from a cinematic standpoint, The Passion of the Christ is
a stunning, artful work.

Agree or disagree with his viewpoint, but you must applaud Mel Gibson for having the courage of his convictions.

His portrayal of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus is brutally poetic, violently inspirational and emotionally rewarding.

Working from a screenplay he co-wrote with Benedict Fitzgerald, Gibson as director paints a Jesus who is human but touched by divine inspiration.
And, yes, Gibson, does have an agenda. He seeks to present a Jesus who is the
Son of God, but he does so without proselytizing.

As portrayed by Jim Caviezel, Gibson creates a Jesus whose strength rests in his compassion and his sureness of purpose. Yet, he shows a man who harbors doubts about fulfilling his destiny and fears for the torment he knows awaits him.

Gibson's smartest decision was having his cast speak Aramaic and Latin, thus reinforcing the illusion of time and place.

Too often in biblical movies this sense is shattered when a word or piece of dialogue sounds phony or too modern.

Gibson also stresses the brutality of the times. The Passion is rated R, and deservedly so.

The director does not shy away from lingering on the punishments inflicted on

In unflinching detail he makes the audience mute witnesses to the agonies gleefully administered by Jerusalem's Roman occupiers.

Ironically, that also is one of the movie's few flaws.

An overly fond predilection for slow motion constantly reminds you that what you are watching is a $25 million Passion play. Gibson's camera seems to caress
each lash of the whip, each rendering of the flesh.

The cinematography by the legendary Caleb Deschanel is superb. He seems to have drawn inspiration from various paintings, mostly from the Middle Ages, of
Christ's anguish.

At times, John Debney's score rests too heavy on the percussion. It almost seems like an unnecessary exclamation point for the drama on screen.

I will bow to the biblical scholars and historians as to the accuracy of who was mainly responsible for condemning Jesus.

However, it must be noted that Gibson and Fitzgerald based the bulk of their script upon the Gospels, most of which were written by men who were trying to make Christianity acceptable without offending their Roman conquerors. Thus, they were written by people with a political perspective as well as a spiritual

The movie does seem to implicate the Jewish establishment the Temple priests
of that time, rather than the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. However, as a person of the Jewish faith, I believe accusations of anti-Semitism are exaggerated.

Gibson levels complicity at a specific, minute segment of the Jewish people, not the Jewish people as a whole.

That Pilate would acquiesce to the priests and condemn Jesus just to quiet the
rabble that does seem a bit far-fetched. Yet, I sense no malice on Gibson's part.

The Passion of the Christ, while not a perfect film, will touch many emotions
in those who see it. Some people may be offended, while others may be inspired.

Whichever the case, The Passion probably will not be the last cinematic word on the life of Jesus. Keep in mind, it's just one artist's perception, his way
of sharing his beliefs. It's neither a call to arms nor an attack on those with
differing views.

It is only a movie.

Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, Ind. He
can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or at [email protected] Bloom's reviews also can be found at the Journal and Courier
Web site:
Other reviews by Bloom can be found at the Rottentomatoes Web site: or at the Internet Movie Database Web site:

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