If you're an independent cinema screening The Passion of the Christ, what do you run for previews?
In the case of Cinema Arts Theatre (which, god love 'em, is also running a Jewish
film festival for the next two weeks), you run Bon Voyage (a French thriller/comedy/Nazis picture),
Broken Wings (from Israel), and (surprise) an inspirational Jim Caviezel picture.
Yes, the Bible pic is violent, but to someone like me inured by the likes of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, the violence is not really excessive.
Director Mel Gibson and his team quite effectively employ all of the creative cinematic crafts available to the 21st-century moviemakers.
The prosthetics and makeup effects that represent Jesus's scourging are most impressive.
The soundtrack goes for the cheese at times, swinging from new age-y pipes to Marines recruiting video bombast.
Messengers crash through doors, a là Underworld.
We watch Christ topple to the ground multiple times in slow-motion, and survey his artfully ravaged face in hyper extreme closeup.
Alas, the people of this passion play are, with one exception, uni-dimensional. Disciple Peter comes off particularly poorly, having nothing to play but his cringing denials.
Released criminal Barabbas appears to be some sort of simian.
Only Simon of Cyrene, pressed into the service of carrying the cross, resembles a human being, with more than one reaction
to what's going on.
What most people seem to have overlooked is that, in the end, it's only a movie, and as such it's an act of the imagination, subject to Gibson's additions and subtractions from the canon.
The interpolation of St. Veronica is particularly jarring.