Director: Mel Gibson
This is a brilliant film. But it’s not perfect. It’s extremely well-directed. Mel does an excellent job of telling the tale of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life without the camera becoming too obvious and interferring with the story. I especially applaud his choice to do them in Aramaic and Latin with English subtitles. It adds to the authenticity. On many levels the story is very simple and plain. Mel adds touches of complexity with strange visions and an obviously evil Devil, but in general it’s the basic Bible story you expect. It is brutal, however. It is unflinching in portraying the violence inflicted on Jesus. The flogging scene will leave your stomach churning. Jesus is literally scourged until there’s hardly any skin left: it’s hanging from his body in shreds. And that, of course, is just the beginning of a horrible night of torture. While I applaud Mel for showing us the Crucifixion as it really happened (I’m sure it really was that bad), it is difficult to watch — which is probably half the point. Mel does give us moments of relief via brief flashbacks into moments of Christ’s life: breaking bread, washing hands at the Last Supper, writing in the dirt, etc. But the moments are not enough to redeem the oppressive nature of the film. The violence and gore is so strong it overpowers all else. To our modern eyes, unaccustomed to such brutality, it seems like too much; we want to protest, to try and stop it, and it’s infuriating watching Jesus’ mother stand by calmly watching the whole event. The biggest flaw is that film presents little hope. There’s a brief resurrection scene, but it’s far too brief. What I wanted to see was some glimpses of the lives affected by Jesus’ sacrifice. Show us Malchus, the servant who’s ear Peter cut off and Jesus restored, at home with his family that evening, a changed man. Show us Pilot, the roman governor who gave Jesus up for death, praying for forgiveness and mercy. Show us Simon, the man who carried Jesus’ cross when he couldn’t, and how his brief encounter with Christ changed his life forever. That was what the movie should have been about: changed lives. Instead, it’s a sad film about a man who’s tortured and horribly executed. Christians will understand the signficance behind the story and be moved, but unfortunately the film doesn’t reveal much beyond the literal. That’s too bad. It’s an excellent film. But it could have been a masterpiece. I still recommend it. But it’s definitely not for kids. Adults will find it difficult. It’s a powerful film from opening scene until the end. You will be left emotionally drained. But it needed a little spark, something extra beyond the literal story, a glimmer of hope. Still, it’s an amazing achievement, and it’s even more amazing that so many will watch it. That’s good. Hopefully it will touch people and motivate them to learn more about Jesus. If even one life is changed because of the film, it was worth making it.