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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mel Gibson
Cast:
James Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Claudia Gerini, Maia Morgenstern
Writing Credits:
Benedict Fitzgerald, Mel Gibson

Synopsis:
The Passion of the Christ focuses on the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth's life.

Box Office:
Budget
$30,000,000.
Opening Weekend
$83,848,082 on 3043 screens.
Domestic Gross
$370,782,930.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
Aramaic/Latin/Hebrew DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Portuguese
Cantonese
Thai
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 126 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 2/7/2017

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Mel Gibson, Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, and Editor John Wright
• Audio Commentary with Producer Steven McEveety, Visual Effects Supervisor/Second Unit Director Ted Rae, and Special Makeup and Visual Effects Designer Keith Vanderlaan
• Audio Commentary with Director Mel Gibson, Language Consultant and Aramaic/Latin Translator Father William Fulco, and Theologians Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek
• Selected Scenes Music Commentary with Composer John Debney
• Footnotes
Passion Recut Version of Film


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Passion of the Christ (2017 Reissue) [Blu-Ray] (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 19, 2017)

Not that we needed more evidence, but 2004ís The Passion of the Christ proved that I know nothing about Hollywood. Or maybe it didnít establish anything related to the usual studio goings-on, for although it came from megastar Mel Gibson, the flick offered an experience far from what weíd normal expect from Tinseltown.

So what mistake did I make? When I made my box office predictions I ever-so-slightly underestimated how the movie would perform. And by ďever-so-slightlyĒ, I mean ďmissed the boat so badly that I never even got within 500 miles of the pierĒ.

I felt sure that Passion would make no more than maybe $20 million in the US. I saw it as a case similar to that of another controversial religious epic, 1988ís The Last Temptation of Christ. That film only raked in $8 million back then, so why would Passion do much better 16 years later?

The big difference between the two revolved around the origins of their controversies. In 1988, Christians protested Temptation for its depiction of a flawed Christ and became particularly outraged by its insinuations. In 2004, the Jewish community got upset because of the allegations that Gibson would portray them negatively/stereotypically and also advance the concept that the Jews killed Christ.

Those latter ideas didnít seem to bother the devout Christians in the US, and since this country includes many more of them than Jews or other religions, Passion prospered at the box office. The Christian community embraced Passion in an absolutely unprecedented manner. Churches would buy out entire screenings, and all of this helped take the movie to an amazing $370 million gross in the US.

The (pun-intended) passion the Christians felt for the flick made it a prime topic for discussion, and this turned it into a ďmust-seeĒ flick for people of all denominations and beliefs. Passionís status and notoriety meant that folks felt compelled to watch it to discover the cause of all the fuss.

Is it possible to view Passion solely as a film without any other concepts to color oneís opinions? Probably not, but Iíll try.

I usually write my own plot synopses but thought Iíd just toss out the one from the press release this time, as it sums up the basic story well: ďThe depiction of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus (Jim Caviezel) opens with his betrayal by Judas (Luca Lionello), his condemnation by the Pharisees, and his appearance before Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov). Pilate defers to King Herod (Luca de Dominicis), but Herod returns Jesus.Ē

ďPilate then asks the crowd to choose between Jesus and Barrabas (Pedro Sarubbi). The crowd chooses Barrabas. Pilate washes his hands of the matter, and Jesus is forced to carry the cross through the streets of Golgotha where Roman soldiers crucify him.Ē

ďAlthough Jesus briefly fears that God, his Father, has abandoned him, he regains his faith, proclaiming ĎInto Thy hands I commend my spirití. At the moment of death, nature itself overturns.Ē

If nothing else, one must admire Gibsonís decision to tell the story in the manner he chose. Whether or not one agrees with his decisions, he made the movie he desired, consequences be damned. Thatís rare, especially for someone as popular and successful as Gibson was at the time of this filmís creation.

Does Passion have anything to offer to those without a strong belief in Jesus? Maybe, but I canít say that it did a lot for me.

Going in, I knew two things: the people who saw Passion felt it demonstrated a lot of graphic violence, and also they thought it presented a harrowing tale. Perhaps because I expected something absolutely extreme, I didnít think the violence seemed as horrifying as anticipated.

Really, only one scene becomes tough to take: the extended one in which the Romans initially flay Jesus. This segment indeed can be difficult to watch, as it goes on forever and really shows some unpleasant shots.

Otherwise, the movie doesnít depict a great deal of violence, at least not graphic material. Prior to the flogging, the authorities beat up Jesus, and his walk to crucifixion demonstrates occasional unpleasantness, but not to the gory degree expected.

Even when the Romans pound nails into his hands, the camera cuts away and doesnít depict graphic material. Itís still unpleasant, and I donít want to convey that itís not tough to watch, but itís not the intensely disgusting presentation many indicated.

Iíve heard Passion referred to as pornographic in its display of violence, and also heard it called the equivalent of a snuff film. Both comments seem off base to me, mostly because they confer a level of realism that I donít see in Passion.

This isnít a documentary-format take on Jesusís travails. Gibson makes the movie quite stylized, which somewhat defeats the purpose. I thought he wanted to give us a feel for what it was really like, but the frequent use of lavish slow-motion and other cinematic techniques doesnít deliver a feeling of realism.

Indeed, those elements convey the impression that Gibson really revels in the violence. As tough as it can be to watch the initial whipping sequence, Gibsonís self-conscious use of varied camera speeds takes away from the impact and becomes a distraction.

These choices also lead me to feel that Gibson almost glorifies the violence. I donít believe he intended this, but the camera lingers on the gore almost lovingly, in slow, languid shots. I suppose this reinforces the pain, but it also revels in the agony.

One huge criticism of Passion connects to its depiction of the periodís Jewish folks. Though apparently the vast majority of historical evidence doesnít support that their involvement led to the persecution of Christ, Gibson clearly disagrees. He strongly pins the blame on the Jews and presents them as narrow-minded and bloodthirsty.

By contrast, Gibson lets many of the Romans off the hook. In particular, Pilate gets portrayed as gentle and caring. He attempts to block the Jewish attacks and keep Christ alive but canít resist the public condemnation. Passion tosses out a token Jewish character who protests, but he remains a minor obstacle against the overwhelming tide of discrimination

Why does Gibson choose to do this? God only knows, as these moments are totally unnecessary to tell the tale at hand.

I guess Gibson feels these element are important - whether they match the truth or not - but all they do is detract from the potential power of the tale. Gibson creates controversy where it doesnít need to exist and turns off many people who otherwise may have taken to the movie.

I donít think Gibson cared about anyone other than fellow true believers, though, so he likely didnít worry about the folks who disliked these choices. Truth be told, Passion literally preaches to the choir.

The filmís enormous box office success and notoriety led a broader population to see it, but I donít think it was meant for them. Passion intends to reinforce the faith of the believers but not sway anyone on the fence.

Clearly it succeeded in that, for the devout Christians went nuts for Passion, but I donít think it musters the same impact for others. Part of the problem comes from its lack of context, as the movie largely assumes a strong familiarity with the material and doesnít do much to provide the viewer with background or detail.

Granted, most viewers will know some basics, but for those who lack greater comprehension of the situations and characters, the movie may seem a bit confusing at times.

That probably wonít be too much of a problem due to the basic simplicity of the story. Judas sells out Jesus, the mob captures him, then they kill him - thatís it.

Such a tale didnít exactly lend itself to much interpretation, and Gibson didnít want that anyway. Whatever the case may be, some greater exposition would have been nice for those of us without intense familiarity with the situations, but the general point emerges acceptably well.

Much of the fuss about Passion relates to the power and impact that comes from the depiction of the persecution. For a while, I agreed with this, though I didnít think the movie packed a punch due to its main character.

Instead, it moves me for more general reasons, even though the film never takes advantage of the facets of Jesusí history and personality. I feel for him because I see a person unjustly tortured but the fact it is Jesus doesnít add to that concern. Passion fails to deliver an impression of what made Christ special and why this particular act was more reprehensible than it would be for anyone in a similar situation.

That area depicts the essential difference between Passion and Last Temptation, a much better movie. The latter gives us a feel for Jesus as a person, and we understand his philosophies and his sacrifice.

Passion presents Jesus as a symbol and nothing more. He doesnít make choices; instead, he receives punishment but does not offer a character who seems to have any control over his fate.

Thatís an essential distinction. The Christ of Last Temptation actively chooses to resist evil and to reconfirm his faith by his decision to sacrifice himself for the good of mankind. The Jesus of Passion feels like little more than a victim.

Yeah, early in the film he stomps on a snake to depict his rejection of sin and temptation, but thatís it. Otherwise, folks act on him and he simply goes along with it.

This makes the Jesus of Passion a passive and unmoving character. I feel the impact of Christís decision in the Scorsese flick, but I donít get that from Passion. It lacks the context of Temptation to remind us why Jesus did would he did, as it shows the punishment without the involvement of other elements.

For me, Passion loses power as it proceeds, especially because much of the second half just shows Jesus as he walks toward his fate. He falls down a lot, which then prompts many shots of concerned onlookers.

And that is about it. The occasional moving element occurs, such as the first time Jesus collapses. Mary (Maia Morgenstern) observes this and flashes back to a childhood incident in which a young Jesus tripped.

Passion needs more shots that humanize Jesus and remind us that despite his holy status, he was still a person with a life and loved ones that he would leave behind upon his sacrifice.

Last Temptation aptly depicts those elements, but The Passion of the Christ fails to do so. The film seems curiously unmoving, and not because of my lack of religious fervor.

I donít believe in squishy space monkeys but I still cried at ET. Passion clearly had a lot of potential, but Iíve seen it done better elsewhere.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Passion of the Christ appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image looked pretty good.

Overall sharpness seemed positive. A few shots gave us a smidgen of softness, but not to a problematic degree. No jagged edges or shimmering interfered, and I saw no signs of edge haloes of print flaws.

In terms of colors, Passion largely mixed ambers and blues. It displayed these tones in an appropriate manner.

Blacks were nicely deep and firm, and shadows usually looked clear and concise. The early parts of the film used some fairly heavy blue filters that made the shots slightly dim, but this wasnít a problem. Overall, I felt satisfied with the strong transfer of Passion.

Although the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of The Passion of the Christ lacked substantial ambition, it succeeded in the ways it reinforced the material. A mix made to complement rather than to dazzle, the soundfield rarely become consciously active.

This meant it lacked the ďwowĒ moments one would usually associate with a strong modern soundtrack. However, it seemed nicely delineated and gave us a consistently good feel for place and atmosphere.

The occasional examples of more prominent involvement kicked to life well, such as when destruction roared toward the end of the movie. Otherwise, the audio was a triumph of ambient sound, for it created a full and engrossing setting for the material.

Audio quality was positive. Speech consistently seemed natural and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess. Effects came across as bold and dynamic. They lacked distortion or other concerns and packed a wallop during the few scenes when that became appropriate.

Music worked particularly well, as the often-percussive score pumped out smoothly and concisely. Low-end was deep and rich. I felt pleased with this good soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2007 ďDefinitiveĒ DVD? Audio showed a bit more warmth and range, while visuals were tighter and smoother. The Blu-ray offered an improvement over the already-good DVD.

A prior Blu-ray included all of the Definitive DVDís extras, but this 2017 reissue only keeps the materials on the earlier BDís first disc. This means we still find three separate full-length audio commentaries.

The first commentary features director Mel Gibson, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, and editor John Wright, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They discuss sets and locations, actors, characters and story, editing and cinematography, language issues in the film and during the shoot, some effects, and general experiences.

The track starts slowly and briefly becomes engaging after a while, but it soon turns slow again. We get a passable view of the productionís basics but not a whole lot more.

We find a little silence along the way and a lot of praise, as the participants seem enraptured by the film and all involved. Enough good nuggets emerge to make the commentary listenable, but it never turns into anything better than that. Frankly, given the subject at hand, itís a disappointment.

Next we hear from producer Steven McEveety, visual effects supervisor/second unit director Ted Rae, and special makeup and visual effects designer Keith Vanderlaan. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. The chat covers sets and locations, makeup and visual effects, actors and performances, camerawork, and a mix of other topics.

Unlike the first commentary, this one actually digs into religious issues to a minor degree. The participants discuss how the movie reflected their faith and what it means to them.

Those elements prove interesting, but otherwise, this track resembles its predecessor. We get some decent nuts and bolts along with too much happy talk. I prefer it to the first commentary but think it lacks much to make it above average.

Finally, we get a ďtheological commentaryĒ from Gibson, language consultant and Aramaic/Latin translator Father William Fulco, and theologians Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek. All four seem to sit together, though Iím not totally sure about that, as some of the remarks appear to come from a separate session.

The conversation looks at interpretation of the movieís events as well as themes and Biblical issues. We get insight and expansion into the filmís characters and story along with some responses to a few criticisms of the flick.

Of the three commentaries, this one becomes easily the most useful. It proves consistently thoughtful and informative as it digs into the movieís Biblical issues.

My only complaint comes from the lack of an opposing view. The track gives us retorts to the thoughts of naysayers, but it wouldíve been good to hear some of those ideas from the critics themselves. Despite that minor flaw, this is an engaging chat.

Composer John Debney provides a Selected Scenes Music Commentary. Debney tells us how he came onto the film and gets into various aspects of his work. He details different musical and instrumental choices, how he decided to illustrate themes, and recording some sections.

Debney offers good notes and insight Ė when he talks. As noted, this is a ďscene-specificĒ track, so enormous amounts of film pass with no comments.

I donít mind that, but the implementation stinks, as the disc doesnít skip the dead spots or give us a menu to let us avoid them. This means that you have to sit through a great deal of empty air to get to Debneyís information. That frustrating decision mars an otherwise interesting chat.

Entitled Footnotes, a text commentary accompanies the film. This presents notes about the production as well as Biblical elements. The info stays basic at best and pops up very infrequently.

Indeed, the vast majority of the flick passes with no text. Itís not a useful component.

The disc also offers the option to watch The Passion Recut. This is a ďPG-13Ē version of the film created to allow slightly younger audiences and those with an aversion to gore to see the film.

Whereas the theatrical version runs 2:06:32, ďRecutĒ goes for 2:01:51 and removes the movieís most graphic violence. I suspect thereís a limited audience for ďRecutĒ, but I appreciate its inclusion here.

For those who came to The Passion of the Christ as part of the base audience, obviously the film worked for them, but it didnít do much for me. The flick seemed more elegant than I expected, but it lacked a substantial emotional impact and came across as curiously bland and ineffective. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with an erratic but usually informative set of supplements.

This 2017 Blu-ray simply re-issues Disc One from the two-disc release from 2009. It adds a few audio options but loses all the bonus materials found in the two-disc package.

Unless you just have to hear Passion in English, Spanish or Portuguese, skip the 2017 version and grab the two-disc release instead. It sells for less money and gives you more.

To rate this film visit the original review of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main