The Passion of the Christ (2004)
By: J.R. McNamara on April 6, 2012  | 
DVD
Icon | Region B | 2.40:1, 1080p | Latin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 | 126 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Christo Jivkov, Monica Bellucci
Screenplay: Benedict Fitzgerald, Mel Gibson
Country: USA
External Links
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Given the popularity of 'Nunsploitation' in the 70s it was only a matter of time before someone worked their way up the religious exploitation ladder. It would seem that mainstream drama is quite capable of taking care of Priest-sploitation, considering how many films maintain a 'Priests are bad' stance, so naturally the next step would be Jesusploitation. But would anyone be shameless enough to bring this contentious sub-genre to mainstream multiplexes?

Enter: Mel Gibson...

Those who love chocolate and four day weekends should be well aware of this tale, as it is about the very man whose death we celebrate, or commemorate, around this time of the year. The time is Easter, and the man whose life and death is celebrated is the first recorded literary, non-brains eating zombie: Jesus Christ.

The Passion of the Christ is the tale of the last 12 hours of Jesus of Nazareth's (Jim Caviezal) life as he is betrayed by his friend Judas (Luca Lionello), and tortured and eventually crucified by the Romans. As we see Jesus brutally violated, we witness, through his eyes and those of his friends and followers, what kind of a man he was and what led him to be so despised by the religious caste that at first accepted him, but eventually called for his death.

So is this being reviewed as a cult film? Well if I were to be cheeky I could say that it is due to the fact that is being based on a 'cult', but that would be an abuse of the word, and to the religions it represents. Maybe it squeezes in due to the fact it was made by Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson. Maybe it is because it was labeled one of the 25 Most Controversial Films of All Time by Entertainment Weekly in 2006; a list that also included such traditional Digital Retribution fare as Thriller: A Cruel Picture, Cannibal Holocaust, Triumph of the Will and The Exorcist. In reality I suspect it lands in our laps due to the fact it contains violence in great volume and gore galore. If Chas Balun was alive, he would no doubt offer it a 5 out of 5 on the good ol' Gore Score!

The violence in this film is surprisingly graphic, and realistic enough that many will find themselves flinching like they've just watched an octogenarian land scrotum first on a railing in a prize winning video on Australia's Funniest Home Videos. It could also be that the performances are so great that you feel the characters pains, not just the physical, but the emotional as well. It also could be that the special effects depicting the cruelty of the Romans upon Jesus are not only well executed (sorry) but also are performed with quite a lot of gusto by the actors involved with them, and Caviezal's response's are suitably contrary to their elation.

The Passion of the Christ is a well written, if biased look at Jesus' last day that contains some outstanding performances, and considering the entire film is spoken in Aramaic, Hebrew or Latin, the emotion conveyed is wonderful. The acting is of such a high standard that ignoring the subtitles doesn't reduce the impact of the film.
Video
Both Gibson with his direction and Caleb Deschanel with his cinematography have created a feature that looks like animated scenes of Caravaggio artworks, which was the intention. The Bluray transfer displays all the richness of the cinematic ideals wonderfully, and is presented in 2.40:1
Audio
The audio is spectacular. Every click of metal and squeak of leather is crystal clear. This soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
Extra Features
Immediately I must point out that one of the extras on this disc is 'Passion Recut' which is a 'softer' version of the film, with a lot of the blood, violence and gore removed for a more mainstream audience. In other words; not for the cut and dried Digital Retribution reader.

There is a trivia track which displays facts about the filming and costumes, casting and set designs in pop-up boxes while the film plays. I found all these to be incredibly interesting and was disappointed that they were so infrequent.

There are also 4 commentaries on the disc, all of which are only available on the theatrical cut of the film:

Filmmaker's Commentary is performed by writer/director Mel Gibson, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and editor John Wright. This commentary focuses the look of the film and how it is put together, not to mention the performances of the main cast. It is a fairly sporadic commentary, but the comments made are informative.

Production Commentary is performed by producer Stephen McEveety, Visual Effects Supervisor/Second Unit Director Ted Rae and Special Make-Up and Visual Effects Designer Keith Vandelaan. This commentary focuses obviously on the colors and texture of the film, not to mention the effects and the various props. Again, this is informative and educational.

Theological Commentary is performed by Gibson, Language Consultant and Aramaic/Latin Translator Father William Fulco and Theologians Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek. This is a fascinating commentary which reveals not just Gibson's knowledge of all things Biblical, but also gives an insight into the tales of the Bible and what is implied by the texts.

Music Commentary is performed by Composer John Debney. This is a sporadic commentary and really only features on scenes that highlight the soundtrack; very interesting though.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Given a major international release several months before Saw, could Mad Mel's Jesusploitation bloodbath claim its place in history as the first of new millenniums "Torture Porn" films?

All kidding aside, whether you believe in the tales of the Bible, or even in Jesus and his word, the most important question here is: is this a good film? And it is. Incredibly directed and acted, with so much emotional gravity it almost feels like a physical presence, The Passion of the Christ is quality cinema, and whilst it may not be entirely appropriate for the gore loving sons of bitches here at Digital Retribution, it is a well crafted, excellent piece of modern filmmaking.

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