MOVIE REVIEW: “The Passion of the Christ” stars Jim Caviezel (Person of Interest [TV series], The Count of Monte Cristo ), Maia Morgenstern (Ulysses’ Gaze, The Oak), Christo Jivkov (The Profession of Arms, In Memory of Me), Francesco De Vito (Mission: Impossible III, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ), Monica Bellucci (Spectre, The Matrix Revolutions), Luca Lionello (Clover Boy…Last Revolution, A Dream House Nightmare), Fabio Sartor (The Luzhin Defense, Not of This World), Claudia Gerini (John Wick: Chapter 2, The Unknown Woman), Mattia Sbragia (Heaven, Ocean’s Twelve), Toni Bertorelli (The Son’s Room, Silk), and Hristo Shopov (Undisputed 3: Redemption, I Am David). It is directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, Hacksaw Ridge), who also wrote the screenplay with Benedict Fitzgerald (Wise Blood, In Cold Blood). Based on a true story, this film follows Jesus Christ (Caviezel) and His torture before His ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
It took me long enough…the 500th review. I feel like “The Simpsons” right now. Do critics keep track of how many films they analyze? I have no clue, though my guess would be not (typically). This has been a long time coming, not just in terms of this milestone but also for my viewing of Mel Gibson’s epic, “The Passion of the Christ.” I thought over this for many days; what should I watch for my 500th review? It has to be something epic, classic, and promote a strong theme/message. Could it be something I’ve seen already? Possibly, but I couldn’t think of anything that met the criteria. “Dances with Wolves” was sitting on my shelf, unopened for quite some time, though I didn’t get the feeling that it was THE one. Then one day I found it. For being a Christian, it’s quite shocking to some that I have never seen “The Passion of the Christ.” It seemed to be one of the only rated R films people like me got to watch when they were little (if their parents were right in the mind and not too lax). It’s certainly not by choice, but by circumstance. I know of Jesus’ story; how He was crucified for our sins, only to be resurrected a few days later. It’s been interpreted countless times in many mini-series, documentaries, and feature-length movies alike. However, Gibson’s epic stuck out like a sore thumb, never holding back when it came to how gruesome Jesus’ trial was. It became the highest grossing R-rated picture, and it was religious. Was this to be the modern Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments”? I believe so, judging by scale and multitude. We all know what we are in for when we walk into this one. There’s immense turmoil, anguish, and sacrifice. It was the murder of THE king, but it all had to be done in order to save humanity. I’m not going to give my testimony in this; I came to review a film and that’s what I plan to do in the long run. However, religious themes and messages will be discussed. If you don’t believe Jesus, then this may not be the film for you. Sure, it’s beautifully crafted, but you might find yourself abhorring the story. I would like to think that it may change your mind on your faith, though one can’t be certain (there were critics who hated this for its religious roots). I would implore anyone to witness this, but in the end it’s up to your own decision. Anyway, let’s get into what makes this movie so epic. First, it sets the bar for grit. Religious flicks these days take the cookie-cutter, spoonful of sugar route that, while wholesome, doesn’t ping in the heart as much as a grounded, earthy picture. “The Passion of the Christ” is rated R for only one reason: extreme violence and gore. While the many stories we were taught of Jesus were sprinkled throughout the film, the main focus was His final trial in the body of man. It was relentless and hard to watch, from the horrific lashing scene to the nails being driven into His hands and feet. The Bible lays out Jesus’ crucifixion quite vividly, though “The Passion” takes it a step further by actually showing it visually. Pictures of a crucified Jesus look sad enough; try watching what led up to it. How Gibson’s crew recreated this blood bath is beyond me. The make-up and special effects team were stellar in making Jesus look and get beaten. Very few things were done out of shot, with most of the torture being shown in frame; all of which seemed too real to be a simple film production. It amazed me, but more importantly it broke me down. There are two things that a movie hasn’t done to me in a long time: make me flinch and cry. Every lash Jesus took made me cringe as it was never-ceasing. When Mary saw her son carrying His cross and ran to Him, I couldn’t keep myself composed anymore (though I didn’t do so well during the whipping either). I’ve seen my fair share of film torture, all of which has hardened my skin. It’s difficult to make me queasy or upset these days in cinema, but I took a serious punch to the face when I popped “The Passion” into my blu-ray player. It broke me down and made me vulnerable; for someone who believes in Jesus as our savior, this can be even more unbearable. Moving forward, the second aspect this movie excelled at was performances. Out of all the actors, I only recognized the man who played Jesus: Jim Caviezel. He did a fantastic job in “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and he turns in yet another spectacular performance as the Son of God. He seemed wise, terrified, and beaten at all the right times. His torture, as I have stated, seemed so surreal because of him as well as the people who beat him. Everyone did a magnificent job in the long run, and the one biggest compliment I have to give is how they all spoke different languages that weren’t English, including Old Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin. This served as a realistic factor, as it brought us closer to the characters back then than a modernized version where it is a tad less believable. Major props to the actors who spoke these languages fluently in the movie. Cinematography and costuming is the next aesthetic to study, all of which were professionally done. I loved the look and feel of this feature as it brought me to a time long ago (along with the different languages). Gibson’s direction paved way to a beautiful looking release filled with neutral, sandy colors and landscapes that were breathtaking. Everyone wore tattered, worn, or silk garments, bringing out their performances further to greatness. Costumes provide an extra push to a story in making it believable, and the costuming department did a fantastic job. Finally, the musical score was top-notch, filled with foreign rhythms and harmonies that either brought lightheartedness or anguish. Whatever the case, it all felt old and prolific, and I commend the composer for it. When it comes to the story itself, separate from the aesthetics, it’s what you would expect but on a larger, more epic scale. Jesus’ crucifixion and what led up to that point are all entailed in this feature film. It isn’t boring and it doesn’t waste time dwelling on unnecessary plot devices. This is a true story, and everything about it is necessary. The pacing was smooth and for a movie that’s a little over two hours, that’s a saving grace. All of the production work that went into bringing this story to life was just about flawless, with really the only con I have being the development of figures. If you’ve read the Bible, then you don’t need to know much backstory walking in. If you haven’t, there are specific flashbacks and people you might not know what to think of. I for one have not read the whole New Testament yet and know of Jesus’ story based on common knowledge and short stories. The film doesn’t lay much foundation for development besides the torture Jesus went through, so it asks of the audience to have prior knowledge when walking in. Since its target audience is Christians, this makes sense, but for those who know little to nothing of the faith, it may prove difficult to understand. Other than that, I loved this film. Gibson blew me away with “Braveheart,” and this entry makes him all the more legendary behind the camera. This release may have a lot of controversy behind it, but if you believe in Jesus and that He died for your sins, that’s all you need to know in order to garner a modest opinion. While it isn’t perfect, “The Passion of the Christ” is a gut-wrenching, sad, and masterful picture to witness, and I am thoroughly joyous that I chose it as my 500th movie to review. FINAL SCORE: 97%= Juicy Popcorn
This movie has been inducted into The Juicy Hall of Fame.
Here is the trailer:
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