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THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

The last 12 hours leading to the horrific crucifixion of Jesus Christ are depicted in microscopic detail.

CAST: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Hristo Naumov Shopov, Maia Morgenstern, Francesco De Vito, Luca Lionello, Mattia Sbragia, Rosalinda Celentano, Claudia Gerini

DIRECTOR: Mel Gibson

"The Passion of the Christ’ is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it. Mr. Gibson has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one. It is disheartening to see a film made with evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly lacking in grace…‘The Passion of the Christ’ never provides a clear sense of what all of this bloodshed was for, an inconclusiveness that is Mr. Gibson's most serious artistic failure. The Gospels, at least in some interpretations, suggest that the story ends in forgiveness. But such an ending seems beyond Mr. Gibson's imaginative capacities. Perhaps he suspects that his public prefers terror, fury and gore." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"The movie Gibson has made from his personal obsessions is a sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood, and agony…Gibson is so thoroughly fixated on the scourging and crushing of Christ, and so meagrely involved in the spiritual meanings of the final hours, that he falls in danger of altering Jesus’ message of love into one of hate…‘The Passion,’ in its confused way, confirms the old justifications for persecuting the Jews, and one somehow doubts that Gibson will make a sequel in which he reminds the audience that in later centuries the Church itself used torture and execution to punish not only Jews but heretics, non-believers, and dissidents…one of the cruellest movies in the history of the cinema." --David Denby, The New Yorker

"This is the most violent film I have ever seen…This is not a sermon or a homily, but a visualization of the central event in the Christian religion…You must be prepared for whippings, flayings, beatings, the crunch of bones, the agony of screams, the cruelty of the sadistic centurions, the rivulets of blood that crisscross every inch of Jesus' body…It is a personal message movie of the most radical kind, attempting to re-create events of personal urgency to Gibson. The filmmaker has put his artistry and fortune at the service of his conviction and belief, and that doesn't happen often…I myself am no longer religious in the sense that a long-ago altar boy thought he should be, but I can respond to the power of belief whether I agree or not, and when I find it in a film, I must respect it." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Mel Gibson's ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is the most virulently anti-Semitic movie made since the German propaganda films of World War II…Jews are vilified, in ways both little and big, pretty much nonstop for two hours, seven minutes…The movie is a compendium of tortures that would horrify the regulars at an S&M club…‘The Passion of the Christ’ is a brutal, nasty film that demonizes Jews at an unfortunate time in history." --Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News

"‘The Passion of the Christ’ is powerfully moving and fanatically obtuse in equal doses…scenes range from classic to poor and all stops in between…Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus, doesn't so much give a performance as offer himself up as raw meat. So graphic are the torture scenes -- flayings, a crown of thorns, whips with barbed metal tips, nails driven into hands and feet -- that the film seems like the greatest story ever told by the Marquis de Sade…But Gibson's immersion in the blood of Christ is an act of faith filmed with a zealot's rapture. It's a shame he has no faith in audiences to feel Jesus' pain without rubbing their noses in it." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"To say that it’s the bloodiest story ever told is an understatement; rarely has so much red stuff flowed in any movie…before the Crucifixion, we are treated, in fetishistic detail, to nearly two hours of scourging and flaying. By the time Jesus is nailed to the Cross, you may be too numb to care…Gibson’s fervor, it seems to me, belongs as much to the realm of sadomasochism as to Christian piety…The damage will be to those who come to believe that Gibson’s crimson tide, with its jacked-up excruciations, is synonymous with true religious feeling." --Peter Rainer, New York

"In dramatizing the torment of Jesus' last 12 hours, he has made a serious, handsome, excruciating film that radiates total commitment. Few mainstream directors have poured so much of themselves into so uncompromising a production. Whatever the ultimate verdict on Gibson's Passion, it's hard not to admire Gibson's passion. Or his artistry…to charge the film with being anti-Semitic is like saying those who oppose the Bush Administration's Iraq policy are anti-American." --Richard Corliss, Time

"I have no doubt that Mel Gibson loves Jesus. From the evidence of ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ however, what he seems to love as much is the cinematic depiction of flayed, severed, swollen, scarred flesh and rivulets of spilled blood, the crack of bashed bones and the groans of someone enduring the ultimate physical agony…It's the sadism, not the alleged anti-Semitism, that is most striking…From a purely dramatic point of view, the relentless gore is self-defeating. I found myself recoiling from the movie, wanting to keep it at arm's length…Instead of being moved by Christ's suffering, or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins." --David Ansen, Newsweek

"This is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie—The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre—that thinks it's an act of faith. For Gibson, Jesus is defined not by his teachings in life—by his message of mercy, social justice, and self-abnegation, some of it rooted in the Jewish Torah, much of it defiantly personal—but by the manner of his execution…Gibson uses every weapon in his cinematic arsenal to drive home the agony of those last dozen hours…It is almost a relief when the spikes are driven into his hands and feet—at least it means that his pain is almost over. What does this protracted exercise in sadomasochism have to do with Christian faith? I'm asking; I don't know." --David Edelstein, Slate

"I was held by the hushed, voyeuristic brutality of ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ Tempting as it may be to dismiss Mel Gibson as a glorified pain freak, dressing up a martyrdom fantasy in Aramaic and Latin, it would be more accurate, I think, to say that the filmmaker, a Catholic fundamentalist, presents his torture-racked vision of Jesus' last 12 hours on earth as a sacred form of shock therapy…Then again, isn't there more, so much more, to Jesus' spirit than the bloody endurance of his wounds?…‘The Passion of the Christ'’ comes close to being a splatter film in which the victim embraces his own dismemberment…The movie is blood-soaked pop theology for a doom-laden time, its effect that of a gripping yet reductive paradox: It lifts us downward." --Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"Mel Gibson's serious, often brutally powerful film on the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus is a passionate but gruesomely physical picture… Gibson tries to do several things at once: create a compelling drama of the familiar tale, make an exciting movie, follow the Gospels and, through it all, pay witness to his faith. Inevitably, he fails at some of his goals, especially that of proselytizing his audience or building bridges…this ‘Passion’ has more power and gore than power and glory, more blood and guts than blood and redemption. Focusing on the excruciating agony of the flagellation and crucifixion, Gibson and Caviezel never really take us deeply into Jesus' heart or soul." --Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

"In Gibson's crudely effective, blood-soaked epic ‘Braveheart,’ there was little compassion or feeling -- but a great deal of savage brutality culminating in one of the torture scenes that Gibson has relished as an actor. In ‘Passion,’ the relish for pain and bloody cruelty that has marked his career as both a director and an actor -- a relish that would almost be sensual in the hands of a less vulgar artist -- boils over into a full-blown fetish…Eventually, ‘Passion’ becomes a kind of pornographic catalog of Christ's suffering. And like pornography, it's initially powerful but eventually becomes numbing…The message of Jesus' death is all but drowned in Gibson's morbid enthusiasm for shots of metal tearing flesh, as if Christ was crucified so that Gibson -- along with his hard-working make-up and sound people -- could indulge his obsession with torture." --Jonathan Foreman, The New York Post