has an average rating of 7.2 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
are pretty extensive
– 126 minutes
Overall Verdict – Well Recommended
— Review written by: Brendan Surpless —
The Movie Itself is Directed by Mel Gibson (known for directing another epic in “Braveheart“). Instead of focusing on our standard movie review template where we speak on what the film is about, I’m going to speak on my experiences I saw and felt during the opening of the film in February of 2004.
“The Passion of the Christ” chronicles the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life showing what some believe truly happened, that Jesus sacrificed himself for mankind’s sins. Not knowing what to think, whether to wonder if this will be the deemed “most violent movie ever made” or simply just an over-hyped film that will be bland and have no effect of me, I went into the film with a sense that the film wouldn’t do much for me? After all for a film of such a subject, is such violence really necessary?
Before the film began, I began to ponder about how a director like Mel Gibson could do such a film. I did not think that he should have not done it for the principle of the matter, but more of why he decided to do this. I remember that Gibson decided to make this film as accurate as possible mainly because he felt he owned this to himself. He felt that he had sinned and needed to renew himself in god’s eyes. Having viewed the trailer beforehand, I knew this film was going to be something of an interesting concept mainly due to the director (Gibson is kind of like a Spielberg in some aspects. He has the mind of a visionary and knows exactly what he wants before he actually films it. It is truly amazing to see how this man’s mind works and the beautiful scenery that he thought of). I knew this was going to be similar to “Schindler’s List“. While not as great an epic that “List” was, “Passion” is still a memorable experience that no one can forget.
Going to sit down, I looked around for a bit, and saw something that I do not see very often when I attend films. The theater was nearly packed. This notion got me thinking to myself that was the theater packed for a good reason. Possibly there was great interest in the piece, or simply was everyone following the popular trend? As the film started, I immediately realized that this movie was going to be something special, mainly because the music that I heard reminded me of the only reason why a film (“Gladiator“) that was set in a similar area was entertaining or good at all. I’ll speak more about the music in a few moments. When the first scene started, I immediately recognized the actor portraying Jesus. The very talented (see films like “Frequency” or “Pay It Forward” to see what I am meaning) James Caviezel. Caviezel captured the very essence of Jesus in what may be the performance of his career. The raw power he showcases in nothing short of exemplary. As we learn in an included extra, Caviezel gave up a lot for this role. For instance when filming the cross sequence, Caviezel was wearing just a loin cloth in 40 degree weather. Talk about committed.
Half-way through the film, right before the scene where Jesus is “punished”, I took a quick look around and saw everyone with tissues in hand sniffling. I wondered what was so sad? My friend mentioned to me that some believe this is what possibly happened to Christ and, having only read about it, were shocked to see it in person so to speak. Not thinking anymore of it, I prepared myself for what one critic called “one of the most violent scenes in cinema history.”(Ken Clark USA Today) As the punishment took place, I heard people gasping and some actually crying. But, I sat there unnerved. I am not saying this to make some feel that I am the bigger person, but it makes me try to analyze the actions of some and how they act.
As the film progressed I started to wonder to myself what did this man do that was SO bad to deserve such a punishment? Did these people truly see that Jesus was doing something evil and thus needed to be removed? No, the answer lies in the fear, the fear that Jesus through his words and teachings would start a movement and thus a revolt against the Roman form of government over the way they treated their citizens. One of the actors in the film, Hristo Shopov who portrayed Pontius Pilate, made me actually want to go up to the man and ask him what exactly was this man doing wrong to deserve the treatment he received. It’s the repeated offering that Jesus is crucified that made me so upset, despite being in immense pain. It’s almost like he was so steadfast in his decision that nothing was going to make him budge until Jesus was crucified.
As the most violent scene ended, again I pondered to myself trying to think up an answer as to why a person would need to be treated like this. I believe I may have found a somewhat interesting answer. The answer lies in the fear of a revolt and an uprising. Pontius, who demanded the most to Claudia (portrayed admirably by one Claudia Gerini) that this man need to be crucified, feared that the people, who he thought were nothing more than puny souls (the citizens of Rome), would not want to see this and would view this as one step to far and would take action against him perhaps giving him the same punishment.
As the film drew to its last 30 minutes, I figured that final part, which was going to be the walk to the site where Jesus was to be crucified, would be the most emotional scene. After all we, as a whole audience, would realize that this man was truly going to die. (Even though I was not overall affected by this film, I will say that there was many a scene that I hoped that they would just let him go, even though that was not obviously going to occur.) Everyday I wonder to myself and I hope others do as well, as to why people need to suffer for others. Did this man die for my and your sins? Is this the truth or an idea that I am forced to think about as many believe this?
One really striking scene occurred when Jesus was forced to carry his cross that he was going to die on. As he carried his cross, obviously dying literally inside from the wounds, he fell over. Some interesting occurred next. We view Jesus carrying his cross, while getting whipped, but we see this woman from before once more. Earlier, we learned that this woman was none other than Mary (portrayed by Maia Morgenstern), his mother. In what is single handedly one of the most beautiful shots in the film, we see Mary run up to her son. The background theme of ‘Mary Goes to Jesus’ composed by John Debney is simply breathtaking and really captures the emotion of this sequence. I’ll speak more on the power of Debney’s score in the Audio section.
Later on, at a higher moment, she sees her son in pain again. Something powerful occurs next. In the earlier mention scene above, there is a flash back to a scene when Jesus fell, but this time when he was a child. His mother ran over to him and simply said, “Do not fear my son, I will always catch you.” The main reason this scene is powerful is because this same exact moment occurs next, but Jesus is now adult and in pain. She mentions the same line to him, and he responds, “Mother, do not be angered by their actions, for they do not know what they do.” Something similar occurs, but it not as apparent. When Jesus is hit from behind he falls down and is seen by a man and his son. The Roman generals force the man, whose name we learn to be Simon (of Jewish faith), to help Jesus lift the cross. Even though he was forced, we later see Simon yell at the crowd to stop throwing stones at Jesus. But, wait. I thought the Jewish community where to blame for the death of this man? I am not saying that everything that Gibson said was golden, but it makes one think, even those who do not believe in the events written in the Bible, who was really to blame for the death of this man?
Walking out of the theater, I looked around and saw nothing but people in tears. I pondered to myself, for just a moment before moving on, why was a not in tears as well? I had just seen a very powerful and moving film, quite possibly one of the most moving films I have ever had the experience to view minus Spielberg’s amazing “Schindler’s List“. Was it because I do not really believe in the story of the Bible? Possibly but I will say this; the movie made me think why a person, no matter what religion they follow or what they believe in, would do this to a person, Yes, I had just viewed a very violent piece of film, but it did not effect me. Never did I become teary eyed or flinch or look away. Am I inhuman? No, not really, just I have never found myself shocked by the violence in such films of this manner, mainly because these films need this amount of violence. How else could one show the death and suffering of an innocent man without the type of manner that it occurred in?
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte, dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film’s color palette, initially beginning with purposely blue light to showcase a heaven symbol, is full of a wide range of colors. We have the bright colors like the yellows of the sun and sand. Also the darker colors of the night and the deep reds of blood showcase excellent detail considering the amount of darkness to the image. Speaking of detail, one of the most impressive aspects is the wide range of costumes used in the film. As we learn in one of the included extras, there was a large amount of costumes used, all of which were as historical accurate as they could have been. The detail and lifelike feel to these costumes is amazing. Detail is exceptional, either in close ups of the characters (take a look at the scourging sequence as painful as it is). The most amazing aspect here is that all these wounds were made with make up, but still the detail is impressive. There is a fine level of film grain present in some of the lower lit shots but this never became a nuisance to me. This is a very solid image, one of which fans will be pleased. This earns a “4 Star Rating“.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in Aramaic / Hebrew / Latin DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. Dialogue has been reproduced well with no instance of drop out. The subtitled Aramic/Hebrew/Latin language is easy to read and never becomes an issue or a problem. LFE is present mostly in part to Debney’s score. Speaking of Debney’s score, this is the SOLE reason why I’m giving this the rating I’m giving it. Debney’s score, in a word, is downright amazing. He captures each and every essence of the film with such subtlety. His softer moments (see ‘The Olive Garden’), where he enlists a chanting type method is haunting and memorizing fully drawing us to the pain and torment Jesus was experiencing at this point. He then moves to quite possibly one of the best pieces written for a film of this nature in ‘Mary Goes to Jesus’. As Debney tells us in an included extra, he went through numerous themes for this pivotal sequence until one night where he dreamt of the theme that would eventually capture this scene. ‘Mary Goes to Jesus’. This theme has such an almost tender heartbreak to it. Anyhow moving on the film’s dynamics are also top notch. We hear each and every scream of the crowds, whether they were for or against the crime.
This easily earns an excellent “5 Star Rating“. I’m sure some out there might disagree with this but Debney’s score is so powerful that it encompasses the film in a manner that simply draws us in for the full experience.
Bonus Materials on this release are presented in Standard Definition video using the MPEG-2 codec with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.
- Audio Commentary with Director/Writer/Producer Mel Gibson, Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and Editor John Wright: Even though most of the subjects spoken of here are brought up in the making of on the second disc, I was still quite impressed at the length to which all three participants dove into the film.
- Audio Commentary with Producer Stephen McEveety, Visual Effects Supervisor/Second Unit Director Ted Rae and Special Make-Up and Visual Effects Designer Keith Vanderlaan: Akin to the first track (in relevance to the subject matters dealt with), all three participants offer up an extensive and excellent look into their telling of the story, the production and bringing the film to life.
- Theological Commentary with Director/Writer/Producer Mel Gibson, Language Consultant and Aramaic/Latin Translator Father William Fulco and Theologians Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek: Thematic elements and issues are the main subject here as all participants dive deep into the passion as a story and what each got out of the powerful piece. Easily the most moving commentary available, I imagine religious folks will enjoy this one the most.
- Music Commentary with Composer John Debney: Considering my immense love for the score Debney has put together, I was most excited to listen to the thoughts he had for the score he wrote. Even though his comments are given over few select scenes (opening and mostly the last hour), Debney doesn’t disappoint discussing all themes that lead to his epic score.
- Making of The Passion of the Christ: This runs a whopping 1hr40min and covers literally all aspects of the film from pre-production, casting, score, shooting locales, purpose of making the film, language decisions, post-production, studio issues and critical reception. This is easily the best feature available and is worth the price tag alone.
- Deleted Scenes: Here we get two brief scenes that total around 5 minutes.
- Below The Line Panel Discussion: This runs 13min51sec and features a discussion with filmmakers.
- The Legacy: A Historical & Cultural Retrospective of the Crucifixion: This runs about an hour in length and deals with all aspects of Crucifixion from the stations of the Cross to what has been taught 2,000 years later about the ordeal Christ went through.
- Historical Photo Gallery: This deals a few interesting topics including storyboards, Bible to film depictions, the twelve Stations of the Cross via art to various set designs and character pieces.
- Spots: Here we get two brief television spots.
In closing Fox has put together an excellent package. Such a film can’t be denied of its immense and long lasting power, regardless if you’re religious or not. The V/A is also quite good and downright amazing while the included features are informative and well worth the time. This earns a “Well Recommended” from me.
Blu-ray Disc packaging: