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Capt. Sage's Review of
The Passion of the Christ
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I think most people will be relieved to hear that this movie is very, very faithful to the book upon which it is based, and this strengthens the movie immensely. There are a few deviations, but none that are allowed to interfere with the main themes and action that is occurring. The movie is at its best when it is truest to the book, and one of its best features is the use of flashbacks to previous moments in Jesus' life when Jesus is predicting and explaining the events that are occurring in the movie's present.

The movie depicts quite a bit of gore, and we are left in no doubt that Jesus was tortured horribly before being killed torturously. The brutality depicted does not, however, feel out of place, but instead like we are looking back through history to a more brutal time. The violence also shows us the worst side of ourselves, the evil that humans commit.

The technical aspects of the movie are executed very well. The music maintains a sense of drama and sadness without becoming excessively sentimental. There are few special effects, and those that are present are integrated unobtrusively, befitting the setting. The lighting and camera movements, costumes, and scenery, are very well done and utterly appropriate to the setting.

The actors in the movie do a very good job, portraying real people in a real historical context. All the dialogue is in the languages of the time, meaning that the Roman characters speak Latin and the others speak either Aramaic or Hebrew. Subtitles at the bottom of the screen translate into English for us. The actors speak their lines flawlessly, making me occasionally wonder if they perhaps really had been speaking these languages all their lives. They also show their emotions well during the lines, helping us understand the characters, which is important since we can't understand the characters' languages.

Having the entire movie spoken in foreign languages (except for the English subtitles) was one of its strengths. It helps us feel as though we are seeing the culture of the time, as we hear words of these ancient languages. There are also interesting interactions between the people who speak different languages, such as when the Sanhedrin goes before Pilate, and they at first address him in their language before deciding on having one of their members address him in Latin.

The weakest parts of the movie tend to be the deviations. Fortunately, these don't distract one from the whole. (See the spoiler section below.1.)

This movie handles it subject matter appropriately, without sanitizing it by making the torture clean or the moral guidance politically correct. It doesn't allow itself to be distracted, and accurately portrays its narrative and themes. The use of foreign languages consistently throughout the film establishes a realism and allows us to look at a culture we can't ordinarily be a part of, and helps anchor the narrative in time and space, just as its original enactment was so anchored. This is a good movie, and a well-executed work of art.

SPOILERS

I thought there was a little too much time spent on Judas Iscariot, although the sequence was very effective at establishing his despair and its result.

The devil was generally portrayed very well, but I couldn't figure out what the mutant baby she carried symbolized. The mutant baby only appeared once, in the scene where the Romans are flogging Jesus. Was it symbolizing man's sinfulness? Original sin? Some being that works for the devil? And how did it relate to the only scene in which it appeared? I suppose that'll require someone with a better eye for symbolism than me to figure out.