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PCR # 205  (Vol. 5, No. 9)  This edition is for the week of February 23--29, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Passion of the Christ"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Icon Productions and Newmarket Films     
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Monica Belluci, Maia Morgenstern and Hristo Shapov
Directed by: Mel Gibson
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 7 mins

It's been almost 40 years since God and entertainment first crossed paths in my life. One day during 2nd grade music class, while attending the Immaculate Heart of Mary school, I was scolded by the Sister in charge for the way I was playing the tambourine. Instead of rapping it with my hand, I was banging it on my hip, as I had seen Davy Jones of the Monkees do on television. I don't know why I mention this. I do know that I went into this film with the concrete resolve to review it just on its merits as a movie, good or bad. And that is what I am going to do. But I will say that I had to take some serious time off before I did. I don't know what that says about me, but I thought you might like to know. OK, on to the film.

Portraying in detail the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ, The Passion of the Christ is an epic film in every sense of the word. From the performances to the costumes to the landscape, the film sweeps you up in it's telling. It is obvious from frame one that director Gibson has studied his subject thoroughly, and it is his eyes that we see the story unfold. Beginning with His betrayal by Judas, the film follows Christ through an anguishing day of torture and beatings. For anyone who has ever read the New Testament of the Bible, the story follows Him as he is brought before Pontius Pilate (Shapov, in a very fine performance), sent to King Herrod, returned to Pilate and eventually sentenced to death by crucifixion. Much has been written about the possible anti-Semitic feelings that may arise from this film. While the high priests of the temple were the ones that urged Pilate to condemn Christ to death, the film does not make that the central story. Besides, to blame all Jews for the death of Christ would be tantamount to blaming anyone that lives in Germany for the rise of Adolph Hitler.

Director Gibson, who won an Oscar several years ago for the film, Braveheart, certainly knows his way around a camera. Sweeping moves and long tracking shots take the viewer along on their journey. If there is one flaw I noticed, it was the use of slow motion to sell the parts of the film Gibson found pertinent. The bag containing 30 pieces of silver, tossed to Judas in slow motion. Judas betraying Christ with a kiss. The horrible torture that Christ endures. And it is horrible. If your only experience of the Christ story on film is King of Kings or The Greatest Story Ever Told or even the great television epic Jesus of Nazareth, you will not be prepared for what transpires on film. The beatings are horrific, as is the crucifixion. But don't let this detract you. To allow that to happen would be a great disservice to the film. Caviezel's performance in the title role is astounding. Full of peace and light during flashbacks to such events as the Last Supper and his sermons, he is even more full of resolve to fulfill the destiny he knows he must face. Covered in blood, with one eye swollen shut from his beatings, Caviezel projects more emotion with his one open eye then many actors do with their entire bodies. The rest of the cast is equal to the challenge, from Mary Magdelen (Belluci) to the convicts crucified along Christ. "He prays for you!" one of the convicts scream at the High Priest who bullied Pilate into the crucifixion. And that one moment, of the realization that during the worse time of His life all of His thoughts were for others, is what gets Gibson's message across. A rousing musical score by John Debney and beautiful camera work by Caleb Deschanel just add to the epic beauty of the film. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Passion of the Christ  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "The Passion of the Christ" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.