#277 Passion Of The Christ

(2004, Mel Gibson)

“Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do”

So, by accident I find myself reviewing two Mel Gibson movies within the same month. This was not planned, and came about by a review shift bringing Apocalypto closer to Easter, when I’d already planned on reviewing this, The Passion Of The Christ.

Yes, it’s Easter, and just like my first ever Easter of doing this project saw me reviewing the utterly blasphemous Life Of Brian, this time I’m turning my attention to the serious story, where Mel Gibson took a passage from the Bible which apparently blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus and presented it as absolute truth. But he’s not an anti-Semite! Let’s make that clear! Honestly!

Anyway, before I turn Mel Gibson into some kind of pantomime villain around these parts, whether Passion of the Christ has a go at the Jews or not doesn’t matter to me, I’m here to see if it’s any good.

The Passion of The Christ is about Jesus Christ (Jim Caviezel), some guy from Israel who claimed to be the Son Of God and supposedly did some miracles or something. The movie details his last days, where he was beaten to within an inch of his life and then stuck on a cross to die by the Romans. Lovely stuff. Although, really, you should know this stuff already. It’s Easter, after all!

Now, the story of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for God’s people on the cross is generally a revered, holy story that tends to be treated with utmost respect. It’s an important story for Christians because it allows them to reflect on the sacrifices of the man they believe to be God’s representative on Earth, and consider the importance of his teachings.

Someone never sent Mel Gibson that memo, since The Passion of The Christ is part snuff film, part Korean revenge flick, with a dollop of, yes, Life Of Brian for good measure.

The first thing that’s noticeable about The Passion of The Christ is that every scene is shot with such pompous grandeur that it becomes silly. Jesus getting betrayed by Judas and being beaten as he was arrested early on felt less traumatic and more the start of an action sequence where Jesus ‘roids up and starts punching dudes. Sadly, that never happens, but it really honestly feels like that for much of the first half of the movie.

This isn’t the only reason it’s hard to take things seriously. Aside from the action movie cinematography and editing, we have Peter earnestly crying that “I denied him three times” and bawling his eyes out as if he stubbed his toe. We have characters who would look like they’d just stepped off the set of Life Of Brian if the sets didn’t also look like they were from Monty Python’s classic. And then we have the movie seemingly desperate to avoid calling Jesus “The King Of The Jews” for the longest time in case the director steps up and starts punching people for daring to utter the J-word.

Basically, it’s immensely entertaining, but not in a way that Mel Gibson intended, and probably wouldn’t make too many Christians happy.

That is, until we get to the second half of the movie, where Jesus starts getting beaten and whipped. And then beaten and whipped some more. And then dragged through the mud. And then falling over. And falling over again. And again. And so on for eternity. For the second half of the movie, literally nothing else happens. It’s a slow, excruciating slog through Jesus being tortured endlessly and it kind of stops being interesting round about this point.

No, I’m not saying the violence is unnecessary or disgusting or that I’m offended, it’s just so in your face for so long that it kind of becomes boring, and when your ultra-violence becomes boring, your message is kind of lost. Yes, Jesus suffered, but I got the message on the third time he was brutally whipped. I didn’t need another hour of blood and falling over and Jim Caviezel gasping into the camera to continue to sell this fact to me.

The real problem is, the movie fails to make me feel anything for Jesus. He’s a flat character revered for simply being Jesus, like every viewer should already feel really strongly for him already. For non-Christians like myself, this means nothing. Humanise Jesus, show us why he’s so amazing, don’t just make him bleed a bunch and faceplant into sand a lot and expect us to feel sad. Showing us his torture and death out of context, without any reference to the good he did or the messages he taught, just feels more like Hostel than a holy story of reverence.

Ultimately, The Passion of The Christ is a movie that’s overblown and ridiculous, and really didn’t need to be made. Say what you want about the movie’s supposed anti-Semitism, I personally saw it as little more than Mel Gibson patting himself on the back for making a Jesus movie. Apocalypto was dumb entertainment, this is just pointless.

Starring Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci & Hristo Shopov
Written by Benedict Fitzgerald & Mel Gibson based on passages from The New Testament, translated by William Fulco
Produced by Bruce Davey, Mel Gibson, Stephen McEveety & Enzo Sisti
Music by John Debney
Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel
Edited by John Wright

Favourite Scene: The ludicrous silliness of the movie’s first half.
Scene That Bugged Me: The endless torture porn of the second.

Watch it if: You feel you can learn something from seeing Jesus being whipped forever
Avoid it if: You’d rather watch Life Of Brian


Posted on April 21, 2014, in 2000s, Biopic, Drama and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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