Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The Passion of the Christ

Film #57


A film detailing the final hours and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Year 1, Day 55

BEFORE: I had a lot of success with my documentary chain so I’m going to try and continue that success with another. Beginning with The Passion of the Christ, the chain’s main focus will be on recent (post 2000 films). There will be an occasional old film (pre 2000) so it’s probably more accurate to say this will be a potpourri of films. Most films aren’t connected to each other save for a few pairs of similar films. But that’s enough talk; things will make more sense as the days progress.

AFTER: What a roller coaster ride this film was. At the beginning, I was all set to write about how bad The Passion of the Christ is. The garden scene is way too dark, even for Mel Gibson’s stylistic look, the slow-mo was totally unnecessary, and subtitling the scene was just the icing on what I thought would be a very stale cake. But then, things got better. A whole lot better.

As a Catholic, I was raised with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Every Easter I would be forced to dress up and go to Church to hear how Jesus died, was buried, and rose three days later. Even though I’m not the most pious person you’ll meet, this event is very meaningful to me. And I was surprised by how much of the story I didn’t know. I’d never heard of King Herod, had no idea Pontius Pilate was a man, and didn’t know much about Jesus’ trial. But this was only part of the appeal of The Passion of the Christ.

What really deserves recognition is Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Jesus. Jesus is tortured for most of the film and barely speaks when he’s not, and yet Caviezel is able to evoke the subtlest of emotions with a look of the eyes or a change in posture. It’s amazing what he’s able to do with so little. The other aspect that must be commended is the makeup. Never before have I seen such extensive, yet realistic, wounds. Part of what makes the torture scene so moving and hard to watch is the makeup. Jesus is beaten to a bloody pulp, right on the brink of death. You can see every individual lash of the whip and even more horrific, exposed ribs beneath the layers of flesh that are removed. That scene alone was enough for The Passion of the Christ to win the Academy Award for Best Makeup and I thought it would be a gimme. Apparently, it wasn’t. You know what did win the Academy Award? Do you? I’ll tell you. It was Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Yeah, that’s what I call an outrage.

Whether or not you’re a Christian or if you believe in God doesn’t matter. After a certain point you forget about The Passion of the Christ being a religious film and start thinking about it in terms of a dramatic film. Even with a horrible beginning and some not so good parts scattered throughout the rest of the film (what was the whole Satan thing about), The Passion of the Christ is one of the most moving, powerful, and shocking films I’ve ever seen.

RATING: 5 out of 5