That’s right, I watched it. After having watched the South Park episode, “The Passion of the Jew”, I had to check this out to see why I was laughing. And it wasn’t far off. Amid the screams and oddly modern Middle Eastern music, what Kyle Broflovski witnessed is what I witnessed, with the same face of horror and awe. Mel Gibson may be a crazy person who runs around in his underwear with guns and hates Jewish people
excessively, but I’m going to try to be unbiased and non-sacrilegious at this juncture. I’m going to rate this as a movie, not as a representation of religion. So let’s try to be P.C. here, folks. This is Jesus after all.
So, most people, religious or not, know the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Just the title of it says it all. Jesus (played by Jim Caviezel) is betrayed by Judas (played by Luca Lionello) and beaten and crucified. This movie ties in all the trials and tribulations of Jesus in his last 12 hours before death, including a supernatural earthquake at the end. Insert Easter reference and you have what has been coined as “a two hour and six minute snuff film”. That’s not far off.
Okay, movie standpoint.
It is entertaining, like one of those public executions you can’t look away from. Like a schoolyard brawl. Like a car accident. It’s so horrific and brutal that you want to avert your eyes, but it is Jesus after all. The costumes seem to be taken straight from a nativity scene (or straight from the artwork that depicts Jesus’ death) and everyone
in this movie just can’t deny Jesus. He reattaches a man’s ear with just his hand for God’s sake!
But this movie starts to drag. In getting your point across, sure, you have to be accurate to an extent. But Jim Caviezel spent literally 2
hours of the film writhing in agony and wanting to speak (as I’m sure he did at length in the Gospels) but not being able to make words through the gurgling blood. I’m about to throw out an obscure reference here. Has anyone seen the movie Waiting with Ryan Reynolds? Does anyone remember the new waiter that comes in (from Freaks and Geeks) who is always constantly interrupted until he erupts at the end of the film? That kind of epic speech is what I expected at the end of this film. Maybe that didn’t happen. But the biggest part I was looking forward to was the Roman soldier stabbing Jesus with the spear. This is due to my like of the movie Constantine. (Figure that one out.)
But yes, there could have been more of a focus on dialogue and deliverance of the emotions rather than a 2 hour visual narration of a man being beaten and tortured to death. I know that Mel Gibson said that Jesus had it worse than this movie depicted, but at some point it becomes the inspiration for a Saw film.
Coincidentally, the first Saw film came out in 2004 around the time of The Passion. Coincidence? It is. But what about the other 6 films? Hmm…
Jim Caviezel is praised for his performance in this film. Now, it’s a big role to take on that a lot of people wouldn’t do (is it sacrilegious, is it an homage? Iffy…) and I wouldn’t do it myself. But, I think the more powerful performances in the film came from Luca Lionello as Judas. His tortured character, as well as all the accompanying horrific images, really adds a damning element to the movie. You know he did the wrong thing, and he was to blame. It sent chills seeing him hung on that tree by the decaying horse.
Other strange performances came from Jesus’s mother, Mary. Maia Morgenstern, the Romanian actress really added an element of what appeared to be more a love interest than a motherly figure. (I know Jesus wasn’t romantically involved with
anyone, but if you kiss someone’s bloodstained feet, that’s pretty committed, I’d say.) She wept and stared throughout the whole film, saying maybe 3 lines. Visual film indeed. Speaking of visual, get a look at Monica Bellucci in this one as Mary Magdalene. You know after The Matrix series and Shoot ‘Em Up that this woman is packing a hot body underneath that shawl. She was the eye candy in this one, although Jesus was almost nude through the whole film.
So you get all the iconic religious images and the Bible basically comes to life. Meanwhile, Judas is wiping his nose on wall and everyone is falling to their knees in despair. Even the head Jewish rabbi had the strength to rip two layers of woven clothing. That’s pretty redonk. But what was strange was all these representations of emotion are uncommon in the range of human emotions since the dawn of man. Showing emotions in these ways came off as too archaic to me, when the movie is trying to transmit emotion across the chasm to us modern viewers (at least, I felt that way…).
And now we get to the torture. The movie literally only focuses on this. One reviewer said it best when (along these lines) they said something about how watching this movie is not uplifting spiritually, it is more downtrodden and guilt ridden than
anything else. I tend to agree. I just felt bad that people did this to Jesus (agnostically speaking, if this happened). Him falling over every 10 minutes made the movie drag almost to a comic degree. A ten minute flogging scene? I’ve already seen torture films that have more decency than this one. This movie takes violence to a degree that, although tame in comparison to films I’ve seen, it feels all the more real and uncomfortable because we’ve heard stories about this
gruesome affair. Add in a creepy Satan and man baby, and you have a film that is just too real and gritty, without much substance. From a movie stand point.
I’m not gonna take a huge stance on this from either side. I’m just gonna say it was weak for a movie from a movie enthusiast’s point of view. All visual, no grounded plot or substance of character. Jesus is spoken for and his story is taken for granted that the world already knows and doesn’t need cues. But, from a 2004 view, it did. Just an average film about the last hours of Jesus. Sorry if that offends… 5 out of 10.