The Passion of the Christ Reviewed

Aric has taken an in depth look at The Passion of the Christ. As I was away all last week getting sunburnt in the Caribbean I haven’t had the chance to post it until now.Read on, but be warned there are spoilers for those of you who don’t know anything about Christ’s life. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST MOVIE REVIEWI wanted so much for this to be a film with universal appeal, and after enduring 126 minutes of absolute torture, I’m not sure I can make such a statement. However, without question, I can say this is the most powerful film ever made. BRAVEHEART was nothing more than an ambitious wannabe in the wake of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST’S utter terror and destruction. But there is so much more to this film for anyone, who respects Jesus the Man, than annihilation and hopelessness.Actually, it’s a film brimming with hope, and the ultimate victory Christ has over the wages of sin. It’s also a film running over with equal dosages of endless love and cold brutality. To say it isn’t for the squeamish is an understatement – even from a man, who has seen every violent, disgusting movie the world has to offer. Set them up one after another, and I can handle any attempt at violent gross-out you send my way, but I’ve never been physically affected more than the brutality seen in this picture.But it wasn’t the special effects that made this feeling ring true for me, although they are handled with shocking clarity and realism. No, it was the complete respect for this character and Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of him, in what many are defining as a shining moment of his career. He does what no other actor in the history of film could ever do – brings Jesus Christ to life in the truest, most accurate representation that has ever been captured.You’re not going to get the effeminate version from Renaissance art that was little more than blasphemy when it came to doing the Man justice. No, you get a 33-year old Jewish carpenter in a ruthless time where simply surviving proved your worth. And as a carpenter, one of the most laborious occupations for the time, Jesus is no weakling. He is a physically capable man and a charismatic presence. This is the Jesus of Scripture, and the Jesus of reality. Rugged. Tough. And most of all, driven by love for his fellow man. Even those inflicting his torment.Which brings me to the hot topic at the heart of the film’s controversy. Anti-Semitism. Is the film anti-Semitic? Probably about 180 degrees from it. See, the film takes place in Judea, a Jewish-occupied place under Roman control. There are many uncaring, nightmarish, horrible people in this film of both Roman and Jewish nature. But there are also plenty in the same camps with totally different feelings. After Jesus is arrested near the film’s beginning, one Jewish high priest even condemns his fellow council members for the cruel treatment displayed. Many Jews watch mournfully as Christ tries to carry the 110-pound cross to his place of execution after having been skewered in graphic detail on his front and back sides. And let’s not forget that Jesus, John, Peter, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Simon of Cyrene are all Jews themselves. Jesus even taught in the Jewish temple while the cowardly Caiphas and his cronies watched on, refusing to vocalize their disgust openly until the right moment presented itself. I’ve heard many so-called critics say a number of things about this film, mostly disparaging, because of political reasons. (It’s impossible to attack it on its merits, so the weak rely on different factors all together). PEOPLE criticized it for its lack of exposition. This film has a too-bad-if-you-don’t-know-the-story mentality, they said, or something along those lines. Well, it’s a problem all right, but one that viewers must take up for themselves. That’s because the film is not made for EVERYBODY per se. Let’s face it. There are some people that are so close-minded, they refuse to EVER believe in other Forces, such as God. Some that don’t really care. Some that completely hate the Christian mindset. No, this film will have a hard time ever reaching these crowds because you must first have a respect for the Man to understand what has happened in all its effectiveness. If you do have this respect, then the movie is for you. If you don’t know the exposition well enough but would like to, you better dust off your Bible. This film is about suffering for the sake of love, not a theological remedy to those too lazy to catch up on their Sunday school assignments.More problems critics are having with this film concern the portrayals of Caiphas and his order of high priests and Pontius Pilate. They don’t like the way Caiphas appears cowardly and one-dimensional, or the way Pilate is given an almost sympathetic appeal. Well, there’s a complicated reason for these portrayals, and once again, one that implies a problem not befalling the movie, but instead, its audience.See, the film isn’t about all of Jesus’ teachings. It’s not a character study of each man and their motivations. It’s a completely faithful depiction of one segment from each of the Gospels – the crucifixion. Mel Gibson uses pieces found in each of the Gospels to tell most of the story. He also uses some Catholic writings for dramatic effect (though the film’s events are too universally accepted as fact by Christians for the PASSION to ever be typecast as a Catholic portrayal of the crucifixion in the Vatican II sense of the word). Medical research from physicians on the accuracy of crucifixion and scourging were also used to flesh out the story and add to the reality. The Gospels agree that Jesus did endure both. Scholars believe this was not common practice, but in the case of Jesus – where such special attention was given to even provide the Man with a crown of thorns, robe and scepter as a sick joke – the inflictions were, in fact, endured. Most were scourged OR crucified, not both.So back to the portrayals. Caiphas and his men are shown as sniveling cowards because in that point of history, that’s exactly what they were. Pilate doesn’t fare much better. Here is a man that is so cold, he would rather put an innocent man to death against his moral conscience (while not doing anything rash to stop the brutality-for-sport inflicted thereafter) than jeopardize his political career. And the movie doesn’t neglect the fact that Pilate was a sort of tyrant in his own right. It’s mentioned when the Jews first call for Jesus’ crucifixion that the governor is in a lose-lose situation. If he kills Jesus, there will be bloodshed. If he does not kill Jesus, there will be bloodshed from rioting caused by the twisted cowards, who condone and even cheer the inhumanity shown by their Roman government. As a reminder, we’re talking about the establishment here and not the Jewish people. He has already been warned of the bloodshed he has caused to his Jewish subjects, and that if more occurs, “the blood spilled will be my own.” Both men receive negative portrayals because they were both vile men…if you believe the Gospels have historical significance, which they do when you check them against the writings of Josephus, a widely accepted historian who was indeed a Pharisee and a non-believer.Volumes can be written about every aspect of this film (another indicator of greatness), but they are, in fact, no more than visual representations that in no way ever contradict the spirit of the Gospels, although you do see certain elements that aren’t in there in a literal sense. For instance, the abuse on Jesus starts even before the soldiers get him out of the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Gospels, the first violence inflicted comes when Jesus is brought to the high priests. No matter. Nothing they do to him compares to the scourging and crucifixion that IS accurate. These are the most grotesque moments of the film, so NONE of the extreme gore and brutality is gratuitous, and anyone, who thinks so, must check in to what a scourging actually was…a whip with several leather straps that had pieces of metal attached to the ends. Whip lashes out at the back. Sticks in the flesh. Then, removed ripping open the flesh, eventually leading to the breaking of blood vessels and the continuous spurting of blood. It’s truly amazing he ever made it to Golgotha, where the nails were driven into his flesh, and he was hoisted up on the cross to die slowly from suffocation.If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I am going to be careful about my recommendation. In America, 56% of the population claim to be Protestants. Twenty-seven percent claim Catholicism as their faith of choice. Still, others declare themselves non-denominational Christians. Only 2% are Jewish, and the rest fall in as Muslims, agnostics (don’t care), or atheists (don’t believe). Of the considerable portion of Christians in this country, there are a great many that either don’t give their religion the respect it deserves or have too small of an appreciation for what the Cross should actually mean to them. These people, and they are a GREAT NUMBER, are the ones who need to see this film. These are the ones, who can be reached. As for the rest, I suppose it’s possible. To even claim a portion of the Christianity pie, I have to believe that through God, all things are possible. It’s just not as likely because the respect for Christ isn’t there.Since the lines have now been drawn, let me urge you to go see this movie if you feel even the slightest bit in one of these groups. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a Christian effort from a Christian man, who admits to having many flaws. We all do, and Gibson’s marketing, as well as the effort itself, have been courageous attempts at standing up for beliefs, making him the first in Hollywood to ever do so. He may not get the big parts anymore. This movie could be his most financially successful ever and the death of his career at the same time. He doesn’t care. And why should he? He’s tasted all of what Hollywood has to offer and hasn’t liked it. He got his Oscar for the weaker effort BRAVEHEART. And the gutless cowards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences won’t give this film a single thing based on their hypocrisy and politics, even though it deserves to sweep every award more than any motion picture they’ve ever honored. If you’re a Christian, don’t worry about any of these matters. They’re of no importance. Even the fear of anti-Semitism by those that condemned the film having not even seen it. It doesn’t matter. This is your story. You have the right to see it unfold. You have the right to watch it and feel the guilt at having been responsible for his death by your own sins. Let THE PASSION open the doors that you have shut in your life. And most of all, go back to the basics of what you believe in your Bible, and find the path that leads you to be a PRACTICING Christian and not just a name you call yourself to keep any possible guilt at bay. If you don’t respect Christ and refuse to ever do so, then don’t desecrate this movie’s power by attending, renting, or watching it on TV (though you’ll probably need premium cable to ever see it uncut). And don’t waste two hours of your own life on something you refuse to believe. If you believe there is nothing beyond the importance of this life, then your time is entirely too valuable because the guarantees beyond aren’t so good, and you should probably spend the 75 or so years you may have doing things that ARE important to you. This life may be the only chance you’ll ever get.But that isn’t a decision I, Mel Gibson, or anyone else will ever be allowed to make. This is not the Gospel According to Mel. From someone who has studied these Gospels thoroughly and will continue to do so until the day I die and find out what really is going on beyond this world for myself, I assure you this is just the Gospel on film by a brilliant, daring filmmaker, who knows how to add the right dramatic nuances without compromising the power and accuracy of the message.THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is Rated R for obvious reasons. Mainly, about 100 minutes of flesh-ripping, bone crunching torture.CRAVE FACTOR 10/10

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