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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Passion of The Christ
The Passion of The Christ
Other // R // February 25, 2004
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted February 29, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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You've heard all the controversy. Those of anti-Semitism and of the film being nothing but gore and violence. So what was my reaction to Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ? Well, I think it is without a doubt one of the most moving visual and spiritual experiences I have ever had inside a movie theater. There are good films and there are great films, but Gibson's examination of the final hours of Jesus' death truly borders on that of masterpiece. Not only has Mel delivered the most human portrayal of Christ we have ever seen on the screen before, but he proves that he is one of the medium's great directors – with virtually every frame of film filled with the same kind of passion as his subject matter.

For those of the Christian faith, we have been taught that Jesus was just as completely a man as he was completely divine. But in almost every previous portrayal of Christ, he has been an almost otherworldly type of figure – someone that is beyond the ability of the audience to relate to. In Passion, Jesus (James Caviezel) is portrayed as someone who is as human as you or I. He agonizes over the fate that he knows he must fulfill, feels the pain of those who torment him, and (in several moving flashback scenes) laughs with his mother and develops close bonds with those around him. Jesus may willingly give in to his crucifixion, but he is never portrayed as weak…we know at any moment that he could strike those around him down if he so chose, and it's his willingness to be sacrificed that makes Passion such a moving film.

As for the claims of anti-Semitism, only the most closed-minded or ignorant could possibly come away from this film with the impression that Gibson meant to throw blame on the Jews…or even the Romans for that matter. I did not feel anger at those inflicting torture on Jesus, but instead felt terrible guilt and shame directed toward myself for the suffering that Jesus went through. The Bible teaches that Christ gave his life up for us - so we would have a chance for eternal life – and while reading about Jesus' suffering has been enough for billions of Christians in years past, Gibson's visuals provide those of faith (and those without) perhaps the closest version so far as to what Christ actually had to endure. When Billy Graham came out and said Gibson's movie was all the sermons he's ever given wrapped into a two-hour movie – he was right. Whether you believe Jesus as divine or not, the agony of what he went through for what he believed in will leave its effect on you long after you leave the theater.

Which leads me into another issue – that of the alleged gore and violence. Make no mistake about it, this is a bloody and violent film. But is it graphic and gory? I don't think so. It's certainly not as graphic as Silence of the Lambs, Kill Bill or a hundred other good, but violent, movies I have seen in my lifetime. Is it hard to watch at times? Yes. Is it so bad it will turn your stomach? Well, it never had that effect on me…and I tend to be pretty squeamish about such things. Personally, I think the amount of violence is just about right…enough to emotionally move us, but not so much that we become disconnected or repulsed by it. Gibson also takes breaks from Jesus' crucifixion to provide flashbacks of his ministry and younger days – which both gives the audience a break from the bloodiness of his sacrifice, as well as a reminder of why Jesus must go through what he is going through.

Being raised a Christian, perhaps I'm not the best reviewer to tell you the reaction this film would get from one raised Jewish, or Muslim or Hindu. But I know one thing this movie is not – it is not racist, it is not separatist, and it is not anti-Semitic. It's all-inclusive – both in responsibility and in the hope that it offers us. There are few films made that qualify as great, and even fewer that actually transcend the medium to become something greater than the sum of its parts. But The Passion of the Christ is such a film – and I get the feeling we'll all be talking a lot about it…not just today, but for many years to come.
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