Movie Review: The Passion of the Christ

By | February 26, 2004

I went to see the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” last night, and felt that I wanted to post my thoughts. Especially in the last few weeks, momentum has really built for this movie. Many people have been talking about it, and the hype has grown to the point that it is expected to be one of the top Wednesday opening movies ever (measured by gross income). Of course, this is quite interesting considering the controversial subject matter (being religious in nature) and the fact that it wasn’t produced by one of the major Hollywood studios. Beyond that, the entire movie is spoken in foreign languages: Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew. But people have been saying some interesting things about this film, such as, “This was not simply a movie; it was an encounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced.”, “…having now experienced (you do not “view” this film)…” and, “It should be seen by as many people as possible.” I admit my skepticism when something gets this type of popular hype. Understand, I wasn’t skeptical that the movie was good, but was it deserving of this nature of comment?

The movie starts with Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, and follows him through his death on the cross. All religious bias aside, the movie was done most excellently, and I believe most honest critics will give it high marks. I myself give it four stars. The writers did a few things that helped make this movie. First, although they are only following a short period of Jesus life (a little more than a day), they insert “memories” throughout the film, that not only help to break up the action, but serve as a way of communicating who Jesus was, his basic message, and why he was suffering and being crucified. Secondly, the writers did a good job of communicating that there was a spiritual side to this story, that there was “more than met the eye” if you will. I also really liked the allusion to Genesis 3:15. I also believe that they did a good job on the ending, having a brief scene just showing Jesus alive about to exit the tomb. Of course, there is much more to the story, but the writers were only focusing on one part of it, focusing on communicating the central, most important message, and I believe they did an superb job.

Among other comments about the movie, it has been noted that it is an extremely violent and gory movie. One critic apparently thought the movie should have received an NC-17 rating, even more restrictive than the R rating that it did receive. Although the movie is graphic, it isn’t gratuitous or obscene as might be the case in some action and horror films. The sense one gets is that the producers of the film aren’t holding back anything from the viewer, but on the other hand, they aren’t going out of the way to try and be as graphic and shocking as possible. Although there are many films I have not seen, about the only film I can think to compare this film with is “Black Hawk Down”. Neither movie was entertainment in my opinion. In both cases, it seem to be that the film was merely trying to depict the events that happened. In Black Hawk Down, they weren’t trying to dramatize the events, or to give commentary or spin on which party was right or wrong. This may be a bit less of even a possibility to do with the passion, but the writers stayed very close to biblical accounts. I think they did a very good job though: I thought at one point during the movie, that for the first time in history, we can go back and actually witness the crucifixion. Of course, that’s not really the case, but that is how well done the movie is.

Though there are many christians who are supporting the movie, there are also many who are critical for one reason or another. (Why does it always seem to be this way? It’s as if some people seem to think that the essence of christian life is making sure everything is correct and accurate to the most minute detail.) I don’t believe that I’ll address most of those complaints here. However, If any believer thinks that this film is bad for one reason or another, I believe that I will have to respectfully disagree. One person I know of made comment as to noticing some biblical inconsistencies. First, there are a few things that were left out, which I remembered from the biblical accounts, and was somewhat expecting to see. Part of this comes from the fact of how close the writers did stay to the bible, that when some thing was missing, it was more evident. Second, there were some quotes and some scenes as a whole, that are not recorded in the bible. However, I believe that neither of these first two issues took away or distorted the message or the integrity of the film.

At the end of the day, this is just a movie. It is so well done (about time isn’t it?) that it will likely impact people, as certain great movies do. But life will go on and the feelings will fade. My pastor noted that some are calling this the greatest evangelistic opportunity ever. It may be one of the greatest tools, both for the believer and nonbeliever, for connecting and being impacted by Jesus’ sacrifices for us. But the greatest opportunity to evangelize and reach people has always been us, the church. After all, Christ did not say, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if the movie the Passion is a box office hit.” or, “if I’m on top of a poll of the most important/influential people.” (you’ve seen that email) or, “if you make sure everyone knows your stance on political/moral issues.” No, what he said of course was, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) We can and should use this opportunity, but remember that the primary thing we should strive for is love, first for our brothers and sisters in Christ (which we have plenty of room to work on), and secondly for the unbeliever.

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