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The Passion of the Christ

Twelve Hours of Torture

Director Mel Gibson's controversial cinematic interpretation of the last twelve hours of Christ's life is an attempt to bring The Gospel to the big screen. Gibson's angle is to show Christ's passion through his enormous suffering and the forgiveness he offers to his persecutors. The big questions on everyone's minds are whether the telling is accurate and whether the film promotes anti-Semitic sentiments.

It is important to realize that this film is a dramatic interpretation of what is really four somewhat different accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of Christ's death. These stories are interpretations of events that occurred approximately fifty years before their writing. If the film is taken for this alone, it does not appear to be purposefully making any grand statements regarding the worth of Judaism as a religion or call for any ill will towards Jewish people. Though if you have a problem with the Gospel, it might carry over here. The High Priest Caiphas does call for Christ's execution, as does an angry mob. Pontius Pilate is portrayed as somewhat conflicted and agrees to the crucifixion for political reasons to stop an uprising, whereas the Roman police are portrayed as evil brutes. Other Jews (aside from just Christ's followers) are portrayed as being sympathetic to Jesus and against the execution. Further liability for Christ's fate is placed on the Devil, God, and Jesus himself.

This being said, the film, like the Gospel, is somewhat narrow. It does not address the Jewish leaders who were most likely not in favor of the execution. And as a story it spends little time on the set-up and most time on the brutal scourging and crucifixion. It is extremely graphic to a numbing degree and not for the faint of heart. Eerily enough, the excessive violence loses its effect at certain moments. Furthermore, not enough time is given to any of the characters to really understand them beyond what they represent. In a way this works in Gibson's favor by allowing audience members to maintain their own beliefs.

Due to its graphic nature and focused perspective, this film is not for anyone who's not interested in watching it. However, if you want to go see what the fuss is about or how one might adapt the Gospel for film, check it out. I doubt you will be offended. It is visually stunning, well crafted, and hopefully will spark some healthy debate.

Whether or not the scale of this film, statements made by Gibson's father, or the existence of other (possibly more offensive) cuts can or should be separated from the final version of the film is another issue altogether, and one for the individual to decide.

Stars: 2.5 out of 5