The Passion Of The Christ
- Film Worth:$14.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
How do you court controversy in Hollywood? You bait one of the most powerful institutions...
How do you court controversy in Hollywood? You bait one of the most powerful institutions in the country. Nobody cares if you depict half naked women using their bodies to get ahead. Nobody minds much if you blow a gang of baddies away with an AK-47. Nobody even minds car chases or natural disasters with destruction of epic proportions.
But portray religion and you're asking for trouble. As even Kevin Smith (Dogma) found out, you're waving a red flag to the Christian Right before you'll even get a single frame shot.
We all heard the media noise months ago about Mel Gibson's new Jesus Christ project. The most vocal opponents were Jewish groups who feared that the world's most famous devout Catholic was making a movie about Jesus; their assumption was that it would automatically point an accusing finger at Jews for killing Jesus.
While everyone from the Vatican to various Jewish lobby groups got in on the act, most just wondered about the merits of a feature film shot in two languages that were out of use, without the benefit of subtitles.
And finally the wait's over. The Passion has become The Passion Of The Christ, subtitles have been added, and even the Pope's given it the thumbs up (and it must be good if it kept him awake that long).
The verdict is twofold. As a piece of cinema, The Passion Of The Christ is a triumph. Director Gibson, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, score composer John Debney, and the sound effects and make up team have crafted the most powerful and effective film of the year so far, and more so than many in recent years.
As an experience, be warned: it's not for the overly sensitive. Harrowing is too soft a word for the emotional and mental jack-hammering the film will give you. Depicting the final day of Christ's life, it's almost two and a half hours of the most brutal scenes you've ever seen on a film screen. To many, the savagery will be offensive.
So like the recent offering Irreversible, it's not a film to be enjoyed, but rather experienced. This is no Good News Bible derived depiction, and forget all the happy images you may remember from Sunday School books or most other movies about Christ, which offer him up as a glowing, untouchable angel. The Passion Of The Christ tells the story as it is in the Bible, but with an army of movie effects people to ram every lifelike and horrible aspect home like a nail through the hand.
The film begins with Judas betraying Christ (Jim Caviezel, as graceful and noble an actor who's ever portrayed Jesus, and the perfect choice with his wise, caring eyes) to the Judaist High Priests, whose laws forbid them to kill him but who try to convince the local Roman administrator Pontius Pilate to put him to death for his claiming to be the Messiah.
Stuck between a political rock and a hard place, Pilate has no choice but to cave in to them, and we get to watch every ferocious detail of Christ's torture right up to his bearing the cross of his own crucifixion.
There's enough bloodshed and violence visited upon Christ (in gory detail) to justify calling Passion a horror movie, and just when you hope Gibson will pull his punches, he slams you even harder.
But in its way, this is a beautiful film too, showing us (as Gibson intended) the human side of Christ and how he suffered instead of the ethereal, omnipotent figure we imagine. Gibson asks the question: what sort of man was he to withstand such brutality for his beliefs, and how did it affect the man inside the flesh?
Like a good filmmaker, Gibson doesn't avoid telling the story well, from a fantastic depiction of Satan trying to tempt Jesus away from God in his last hours to flashbacks that show us his mother Mary, his saving of Mary Magdelene (Monica Bellucci), his teachings and his warnings at the last supper.
And as he proved in Braveheart, the film is Gibson's canvas, and every facial expression of Caviezel's, every teardrop, pool of blood and shred of hanging flesh add up to something close to cinematic poetry.
This is definitely not for the squeamish, which is unlucky for them - it's a must see.