- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Reviews of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which opened yesterday on more than 2,800 movie screens, range from unabashed raves to raging eviscerations.

Here’s a sampling from reviews by film critics nationwide:

Roger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times:

“What [Mr.] Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of. That his film is superficial in terms of the surrounding message — that we get only a few passing references to the teachings of Jesus — is, I suppose, not the point. … Is the film ‘good’ or ‘great?’ I imagine each person’s reaction (visceral, theological, artistic) will differ. I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what.”

David Denby, New Yorker:

“The movie [Mr.] Gibson has made from his personal obsessions is a sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood, and agony. … [Mr.] Gibson is so thoroughly fixated on the scourging and crushing of Christ, and so meagerly involved in the spiritual meanings of the final hours, that he falls in danger of altering Jesus’ message of love into one of hate.”

Gary Arnold, The Washington Times:

“While there’s scant justification to question Mr. Gibson’s spiritual sincerity, his judgment is often open to question. Sometimes on aesthetic grounds, ranging from the superficial — does it make sense to use slow-motion and conspicuous trick-shot effects in a movie that wants to sustain the illusion of an ancient historical setting? — to the crucial — how much brutality do you actually need to see to be sensitized to Christ’s suffering, or anyone’s suffering?”

Richard Corliss,Time magazine:

“In dramatizing the torment of Jesus’ last 12 hours, [Mr. Gibson] 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 [Mr.] Gibson’s ‘Passion,’ it’s hard not to admire [Mr.] Gibson’s passion.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone magazine:

“‘The Passion of the Christ’ is powerfully moving and fanatically obtuse in equal doses. The typical star rating doesn’t apply, because scenes range from classic to poor and all stops in between.”

Todd McCarthy, Variety:

“If an age produces the renditions of classic stories that reflect those times, then ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ which is violent, contentious, emotional, extreme and highly proficient, must be the Jesus movie for this era. It is also gravely intense and the work of a man as deeply committed to his subject as one could hope for or, for that matter, want.”

Christy Lemire, Associated Press:

“[Mr.] Gibson has said he wants his film to be shockingly graphic to show the humanity of Christ’s sacrifice. But the idea that children should see ‘The Passion’ as a learning device — that churches are organizing screenings and theater trips for their parishioners and catechism classes — is truly shocking. Grown-ups — even true believers — will have difficulty sitting through the film. Just think of the trauma it will inflict on kids.”

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