The Passion of the Christ DVD Review

Why is it that two of the highest grossing films of all time are based on stories that everyone already knows? "Titanic" brought audiences in by the droves, yet no one could possibly go in thinking the boat would end up floating on the water. The same goes for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." This is a brutal, unrelenting film and at times hard to watch, yet audiences embraced it, quickly sending it to the list of the highest grossing movies of all time. Every single moment is shown in full detail, whether it is the pieces of flesh being whipped from Jesus' body or the crown of thorns burrowing into his head. Blood flows in practically every scene once past the half hour mark and never lets up until the screen finally goes black. Whether or not showing this agonizing torture is more effective than letting the actor (James Caviezel, whom in this case is spectacular) bring it out through his performance is debatable, but you will not walk away from this film unaffected. Moments will remain in your mind forever and brining yourself to watch it again will not be easy. This films brutality will not be surpassed anytime soon. This is not a film to sit your family down with on Easter morning. Past the blood and gore, Mel Gibson does a fine job behind the camera, but this is far from a perfect film. The extreme overuse of slow motion is aggravating. Certain scenes do, of course, benefit from the technique, but when every scene uses it in some form, stretching the movies running time in the process, it's distracting. Certain sequences, especially the films forest locale in the opening, are obviously shot on a sound stage with fog machines being overworked. You also have to look at just how much punishment Jesus endures. By the time he is lifted on the cross, there is no white flesh left on his body. The makeup departments obviously had a field day with this one, but how much blood can be used and still make it seem realistic? The way his beatings are portrayed, he never would have lived past the whipping. Also, if by some chance you have never read the Bible and are not familiar with this sequence of events, you would likely be lost through most of the film. Regardless of a few lapses in logic, the exceptional performances and use of the proper languages adds an air of authenticity to the proceedings. American audiences generally shy away from subtitles, making this a brave move. The entire experience just 'feels' real. If you were brought up with this story, this is almost exactly how you it was told to you, just with a monumental amount of gore. This is an epic, yet slightly flawed film, which should be viewed by anyone with even the slightest interest. (**** out of *****) Available in both widescreen (2.40:1) and pan and scan formats, "The Passion" is uneven in the video department. Opening scenes are littered with a distracting amount of grain mostly due to the overuse of fog. Darker scenes lighted by fire also suffer from the same problem. A few brief sequences also have noticeable compression artifacts, but these will only be noticeable if you're looking for them. The films key moments, especially scenes of Jesus carrying the cross, are crystal clear, showcasing the fine detail lost in the early moments. The diluted color scheme used in the film is generally a DVD nightmare, but this transfer does a decent job of holding it together. (***) Thankfully, Fox has NOT including any English dubbing, something that would have diluted the film. Two sound formats, 5.1 and DTS, have been included. Both tracks are on equal ground for most of the film. This is a movie almost entirely dialogue driven for the entire running time. A few of the scenes involving large crowds use the rears, but not extensively. Brief moments also feature excellent directional sound from the front. The only moments where the DTS track proves its worth are the final scenes involving the temple destruction. Otherwise, you'll do just fine with the standard 5.1 track if DTS is not an option. (****) An obvious special edition of this film will be on the way, but no announcements have been made. Likewise, this disc is completely barren, failing to include the standard theatrical trailer. Inside the case, you'll find some shameless marketing for T-shirts, books, and soundtracks. (No stars) Making the decision to view this movie should be one made with proper knowledge. Be fully aware that this is a film that is unforgiving in showing one man being beaten, punched, kicked, and whipped for well over an hour. This is far from other films that show the same sequence of events, and no matter how uplifting some people may find the ending to be, you cannot leave this film anything but depressed.

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