The Passion of the Christ

Rating: * * (out of 5)
Director: Mel Gibson
Running time: 127 minutes
Language: Aramaic, Latin
Currently showing
[See Japan Times movie listings]

"There's enough torture in life without having to inflict it for no good reason." -- Mel Gibson, interviewed by Mike Figgis in Projections 10, 1999.

"The Passion of the Christ" is -- as most of you surely already know -- a film about Jesus. More specifically, it's a film about the torture of Jesus, a grueling, graphic gore-fest that's already caused several heart attacks among its viewers. This is not a film one enjoys, but rather a film one endures. The question thus becomes: Is there a good reason to sit through it?

As with any film about religion, there are plenty of people willing to hype or trash "The Passion" blindly, most of whom had already made up their minds before even seeing the film. Gibson courted fundamentalist Christian groups prior to the release of the film -- a canny move to head off the protests that dogged Martin Scorsese's far more thoughtful "The Last Temptation of Christ" -- and they have responded by embracing the film. In fact, a good deal of the film's $300-million-and-counting success can be attributed to pastors block-booking seats for their congregations.