In this landmark Biblical epic, the suffering of Christ is depicted on the big screen. Beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, continuing to the various trials and through brutal torture, the final hours of Jesus are shown as He struggles up the Via Delarosa to the final reckoning at the Place of the Skull. Complete with flashbacks to Jesus’ previous ministry and windows into the spiritual battle surrounding the crucifixion, The Passion of the Christ was a game-changer in Christian-based film that opened up a whole new world by refusing to fall into the trap of cute and clean Bible movies. The real passion of Jesus Christ was horrible and wonderful, and something that we as Christians should never take for granted.
Production Quality (3 points)
As a professional and talented director and screenwriter, Mel Gibson puts his gift to a greater good in The Passion. The camera work is epic, including great angles and clear video quality. Sound quality is exquisite and the sets and locations are diversely realistic. Of course, the main element of the production—the gore—may seem excessive to some and may frighten young children, but it is necessary to show Christ’s suffering in this way because any other way would minimize His sacrifice for us. First century Judea was violent and Jesus’ persecution was intensely awful, and The Passion captures this unfortunate reality. Finally, the musical score greatly enhances the film. In short, while Mel Gibson is not an exclusively Christian director by any means, he has shown Christians how to make a great production.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
All Christians are familiar with the basic Biblical account of Jesus in the Garden, before the Sanhedrin, before Herod and Pilate, and on the cross. But before this movie, we believe that many western Christians did not fully appreciate the depth of Christ’s suffering. Some may consider The Passion to embellish and sensationalize the torture, but we believe otherwise. A majority of this film is violent and gory, but for good reason. The purpose of Christ’s suffering is clearly communicated. The Biblical characters are realistic and are enhanced by flashbacks. From the beginning to the end, The Passion highlights an important and too-often forgotten aspect to every Biblical narrative: the spiritual battle that takes place away from human eyes. Jesus’ interactions with Satan are epic and make this movie all that it is. Of course, there are slightly too many unnecessary elements to this plot, including unusual personal beliefs of Gibson, overly sensationalized subplots, and a slight deification of Mary. These keep it from being all that it could be. But nevertheless, the plot, though it covers a short period of time, is very deep and profound.
Acting Quality (3 points)
The decision to use Aramaic and Latin instead of modern English was a success. Though some of the actors and actresses are American, most are actually Middle Eastern and Jewish, which is a huge step. The cast is obviously coached well and perform well, though most of them are not blockbuster actors and actresses. Emotional delivery makes this movie what it is. In short, this cast proves that ‘big names’ aren’t always needed to make a great film.
The Passion of the Christ was an early indicator of Christian audiences’ hunger for quality Christian films. Some churches were criticized for publicizing a ‘secular’ film, but Mel Gibson simply did something no one else would do—he shattered Bible movie stereotypes by crafting a gritty and terribly realistic screenplay on the ultimate act of love and suffering in human history. As mostly sheltered Christians who sometimes take for granted the gross realities in the Bible, we all need to be reminded of how real and painful Jesus’ crucifixion was, lest we forget how monumental His sacrifice for us was. It’s only a shame that The Passion was not a perfect film, yet it still lands on the Hall of Fame as one to be remembered and one that made a difference for Christian film forever.
Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points