The First Official Passion of the Christ Reviews … and 50 First Dates
In this final pre-Passion Film Forum, you will find a few links to coverage of Mel Gibson's zero-hour defense of his film and his faith.
But first, take note: Reviews of The Passion of the Christ from religious press film critics (as opposed to church leaders) are finally popping up online. After the hype over the blood, concerns over alleged anti-Semitism, speculation about the film's potential as an evangelistic tool, paranoia over its lack of historical accuracy, and misinformation over its distribution … at last we have some articles that examine the film.
(Actually, such reviews are officially breaking an embargo Gibson's production company has put on official reviews, which is a pretty standard practice in the film industry. In any case, come visit Film Forum next Thursday, and you'll find links to a parade of critical responses.)
In an article appearing soon at Steve Lansingh's The Film Forum, film critic Stef Loy says, "The Passion of the Christ is a visceral, cinematic pulse enabler, raw and bloody, ready to bite into your heart and cause your eyes to well up with tears. Never before has the language of cinema had the potential to challenge the church at large to wake up to the reality of film. It is here to speak and move, to challenge our preconceived notions about life, to affect us in ways that no other medium will ever aspire to."
He acknowledges the film's profound effect on Christian audiences. But what of those unchurched masses who will begin to see the film next week? Loy says, "Perhaps it is too strong. Perhaps the liberties that are taken are too harsh. Perhaps it is exactly what a culture looking for substance will relate to."
"This is definitely not a date movie; it is a think flick," says Steve Beard (Good News). "Church folks should be warned, this is not a family-friendly 'Christian' movie such as Chariots of Fire or The Ten Commandments. The Passion is the most brutal movie you will probably ever see. People will be sobbing in the theaters or running out to get sick in the lobby."
He echoes one of the prevalent questions: "Is there too much gore and violence in The Passion? Probably. It made me turn my head. I just kept whispering, 'Dear Jesus,' to myself throughout many of the scenes. It is the most sadistic and simultaneously holy thing I have seen."
In the email newsletter sent to Movieguide readers, a critic offered the typical Movieguide cautions regarding such volatile issues as violence and upper male nudity (!). But he also called it "an artistic masterpiece. The pacing and style have a foreign feel, and the violence is intense. Those who watch it will understand, perhaps for the first time, the price that Jesus paid to forgive us our sins." The review declares it "a must-see movie, beautifully directed, powerfully acted, with terrific sound."
Posting one of the first mainstream Internet reviews of the film, Online Film Critic Society member Jeff Huston (Mixed Reviews) writes, "The weight of The Passion … is like a physical force. This burden is felt—quite literally—and only grows heavier in the soul as this unforgiving testament unfolds. Yet while it weighs heavy, its burden is also unique in that it leads to such humbling inspiration. This Man's passion moves you."
He adds, "Anybody can stage violence. What Gibson brings to this retelling that none of his predecessors have is the spiritual dimension."
And regarding that anti-Semitism controversy, Huston responds, "Anyone who uses [the movie] as vindication for hatred and bigotry (anti-Semitic or otherwise) is as inexplicably—or willfully—obtuse to the film's message as its critics seem to be."