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Passion of the Christ

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Passion of the Christ

Starring: James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern
Director: Mel Gibson
Rated: R
RunTime: 126 Minutes
Release Date: February 2004
Genres: Drama, Religion

*Also starring: Monica Bellucci, Hristo Jivkov, Hristo Shopov, Rosalinda Celentano, Francesco Cabras, Claudia Gerini, Ted Rusoff, Francesco Gabriele, Matt Patresi, Sergio Rubini

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

An R-rated movie with a pervasive NC-17 level of gore, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is simplistic and relentlessly pedantic but undeniably effective with its single theme that Christ suffered. With little subtlety, the movie features more realistic violence than JASON X.

Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is an awkward blend of BRAVEHEART level of brutality, art house subtitling and a Sunday school level of storytelling. Told exclusively in the original tongues, it was originally slated to be released without any benefit of subtitles. The movie relies so exclusively on the visuals that the English subtitles turn out to be almost superfluous. (According to the Internet Movie Data Base, it's the fourth movie ever made in Aramaic. Bet you can't name the other three.)

The movie does a good job of showing in great detail just how much Christ suffered. No matter how unbearable the scenes become, Gibson never lets his camera cut away from the violent cruelty. This could have worked so much better, however, if he could have made the flashbacks more believable. Instead, FREQUENCY'S James Caviezel, who plays Jesus with all the earnestness he can muster, reads his lines of faith flatly in the flashbacks, which take place before he is captured.

Most of the movie occurs in the last twelve hours of Jesus's life, beginning at about the time when Judas Iscariot (Luca Lionello) betrays him for the infamous thirty pieces of silver. In order to follow the narrative, you'll need to know your New Testament fairly well. Otherwise you're going to be very confused about the relationship of the two Marys, Mary (Maia Morgenstern) and Mary Magdalene (Monica Bellucci), about who hangs himself -- many of characters are very similar in appearance, about who hates Jesus and who doesn't and why and about many other things. But needing to know the answers to these questions all presupposes that the movie has more than one theme, which it doesn't. It only wants to be a gorefest for a good cause. And at that it succeeds. But where is its spirituality?

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST runs too long at 2:07. The film is in Aramaic and Latin with English subtitles. It is rated R for "sequences of graphic violence" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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