I wasnt ready to add movie recommendations just yet, but I was one of the thousands who had a chance to see Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ the night before its official opening and I feel I have to speak.
First, I was not looking forward to seeing it. I was actually a bit nervous because, 1) I dont tend to enjoy gory movies (although there are exceptions) and, 2) I was afraid that if it was well done I would be a sobbing mess.
I did enjoy it. A lot. And I was a sobbing mess. A lot.
If I had to select a film that had the most consistently outstanding acting, from the main stars to the smallest faces in the crowd, TPOTC is it. All of the technical details are first rate, from photography to costumes to music, but its the acting thats a knock-out. And its being acted in a foreign language by actors who dont speak those dead languages, Latin and Aramaic. Mel Gibson must get full stripes for so expertly directing his cast. Superb.
I cant review the movie without reviewing the reviews as theyre such an interesting subset of the film. Most of TPOTCs critics comments are along the lines of:
1) Andy Rooneys hateful vindictive (he wont even see the movie, but has a negative, nasty opinion about it and Christians just the same).
2) Critics who say that while they wouldnt find the film anti-Semitic, or divisive, or manipulative, they could easily see how the great un-washed masses would and therefore see TPOTC as dangerous and they are troubled by the very grave possibility of hatred this movie may cause. I dont think these critics would be much fun on a camping trip.
3) Critics who say this is just Gibsons current addiction and is really just a gory fairy tale.
4) Critics who say it's just Gibsons cynical way of making money from those backward hicks who live in President Bushs red states.
First, the movie is more than just a movie. Truly. I would never have known to pray for Andy Rooney. But now I do. Rooney is as I was, arrogant in his own ignorance (I should trademark that). But God loves Rooney as much as he loved me when I was lost and I pray and know that if Rooney allows himself to find the truth, he will find it. Gods truth will rock his world. And Mr. Rooney, Im not the only one now praying for you wouldnt have happened without this film and your reaction to it.
Then there are the professional critics. Is the movie anti-Semitic? No. You wont find a Christian anywhere who will find it so (and most, but not all, Jews seem to be weighing in with the same verdict). So will its release cause pogroms? As one TPOTC consultant pointed out: the movie has been seen by thousands of people from rough cuts to previews for months before the opening week. Wheres the anti-semitism? There has been none. For those who already hate Jews, how could this film make someone who wants all Jews dead feel any more hateful? Theyre already dug deep into the magma of immorality.
Is TPOTC just a gory fairy tale? I cant convince you in a movie review that the Bible speaks absolute truth and that God is real, really loves you (and me!), and sent his son Jesus to be crucified (a horrendous, bloody method of killing) for the sins of all the world. Just know this: if you want to find out if the Bible is true, you can. Its that simple. I used to sound (and think) just like the Andy Rooneys of this world when I yammered on about all of that mythical Bible stuff and how I was so much smarter than that and so open minded, just the opposite of those silly, dumb believers (turns out I got that completely backward).
As for the gore, oh my, YES this is a gory movie. And true. Christs suffering was foretold very descriptively centuries before it took place. I point you to Psalm 22 (which even describes the crucifixion at a time when such punishment did not exist) and Isaiah 53. Two different authors, hundreds of years apart, prophesizing that At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6) and described just what that death would be like and what that death was for.
But critics who poo-poo the Bibles accuracy arent even accurate themselves. One professional, big newspaper critic talked about Judas betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of Gold. Sigh.
Why would Gibson risk 25 million of his own green to make big bucks? No major distributor would touch his movie. They felt no one wanted to see a movie about the son of man being nailed to a tree for the worlds sins (unless the hot actress of the moment could be worked in to play the prostitute- with- a- heart- of- gold love interest). Filming Christs excruciating last hours was no slam-dunk money maker. Want sure-fire box-office? Then try another Lethal Weapon or What Women Want 2. As for us Red State hicks? I saw this in a movie theatre right here in one of the bluest of states, California. Theatre packed. Audience moved. Nuff said.
One young lady being interviewed on opening day said, Im not going to go see it. What makes Gibson a theologian? Im going to go and see Miracle (about the American hockey team trouncing the Soviets in 1980). Just the way my mind works, but Im wondering why shed see any film at all. I doubt any of Miracles makers knew Hockey inside and out before the film began, therefore, they wouldnt be qualified to make a sports movie. But yes, Gibson sounds like he did his homework, that he is, in fact, a theologian. That young lady could become one, too. So could you. Just study the Bible (start by reading it through just once and it will change your life). Study the history of the time. The archeology. The geography. The culture. Its really just like studying anything else.
Is it Biblically accurate? Yes (but dont take my word for it, again, read the book!). There are extra-Biblical elements, but I found none of them unbelievable. Theres really no way for Satan to know for sure why Jesus was ready to sacrifice himself, but I dont think its a stretch that he figured it out for himself and was ready to thwart it if only he could. We dont really know from the Bible that Pilate knew hed loose his job (and worse) if he couldnt keep the Jews from causing another round of trouble for Rome, but we do know it historically, so the film showing his worries over Jesus is believable. We know Judas had his demons of remorse after getting his rabbi arrested, but Gibsons literal portrayal of this was creative and satisfying (Note: Judas greatest sin was not in betraying Jesus; it was in not repenting of that sin).
A friend my wife and I saw The Passion with said the brutality Christ suffered, as shown on screen, strengthened his faith. That was certainly something Gibson wanted to inspire. For me, I think it would have been a masterpiece even without such detailed gore. But then, I feel The Wild Bunch would have also been a good movie without the Karo-syrup carnage. If youve got a good story and good people telling it, you really cant miss. For Gibson, he did a fabulous job telling the greatest story ever told.