All aspects of this film, "The Passion of the Christ" are excellent. The technical values, shooting and film quality, costume and makeup, screenplay and directing, cast and crew are outstanding. For a film with relatively few lines for its length, the quality of acting is even more important. The leads are all exceptional – Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Maia Morgenstern as Mary, and Monica Belluci as Magdalen. The roles of the Apostles, Pontius Pilate, his wife, the high priest, and Herod are all very good. For a real take on the quality of casting and directing, look at some of the lesser roles – the Roman soldiers, for instance.
One scene shows the excellence of several men in their roles as soldiers. During the scourging of Jesus, two soldiers begin with reeds for whips. They stand behind Jesus on either side, and alternate their strikes. After so many lashes, Jesus is weakened and falls to his knees. The two soldiers stop, exhausted. One is bent over, hands on his knees, gasping for air. The other, breathing heavily, wipes saliva from his mouth. They, and others standing around them have looks that may be empathy for the beaten figure of the man before them. But then, Jesus struggles to his feet, his hands shaking and writhing in pain as he pulls himself up off the ground. Now we see a marked change in the soldiers. They have looks of scorn at this prisoner's defiance of their beating. We can see – almost to the point of imagining the feelings ourselves – the anger welling up within them. Now they have looks of contempt, bitterness, and hatred toward this beaten man who has withstood their beating. So, now they take to the horrendous and brutal weapons of flogging. Now they will teach him a lesson. There will be no mercy for this man.
No movie before has shown the depth and detail as has this film of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ. To some, it's too brutal and gory to watch. And, it's certainly not for young children. But for those who want to learn about and better understand the Gospel accounts of the last half day of Jesus Christ on earth, "The Passion of the Christ" is an excellent portrayal.
Mel Gibson produced, directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the film. He relied on a book, "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," to fill in many details of the Gospel accounts. The book was edited by author and poet Clemens Brentano, and based on his interviews of a mystic, Anne Catherine Emmerich. She was a nun who lived from 1774 to 1824, in a convent in Germany. She spent the last years of her life bedridden. She had spiritual ecstasies, including visions of the life and death of Jesus. She later bore the physical marks and pains of the stigmata on her body. These were examined by church officials and later by secular medical experts, all of whom confirmed the wounds as authentic and unexplainable.
History books and encyclopedias attest to the type of scourging depicted in the film. A number of scientific and medical books about scourging and crucifixion have been published in the past few decades. One of the best is a book by Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe, 1929-2013. The former chief medical examiner of Rockland County, NY (1969-2000), was one of the most prominent forensic experts in the U.S. His "The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry" was written after decades of research and updated in 2005. Another, with more historical details, is "A Doctor at Calvary," by Pierre Barbet, M.D., 1953.
Gibson and company took extra steps to add to the accuracy and reality of time and place. The movie was made in the languages spoken in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago – Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin. It also has English subtitles. Lengthy research went into the dress and customs of the time. Experts advised the crew on language, the culture, and other details during the filming.
The film received three Oscar nominations, for cinematography, costumes and makeup. There were some other very good movies in 2004, but consider those that won Oscars in these categories. Cinematography and costume went to "The Aviator," and makeup went to Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events. "Passion" wasn't nominated for directing or editing, but consider this film against those Oscar winners, "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Aviator," respectively.
Many extraordinary things happened in connection with the making of "The Passion of the Christ." Viewers will see a strange name in the credits for the film at the end. Jan "Lightning Boy" Michelini, was a young assistant director for the film. He was struck directly by bolts of lightning two times – a year apart, during outdoor filming for the movie. The second time the lightning also flashed to Jim Caviezel who was standing near him. Jan had been holding umbrellas over crew members when it began to rain each time. The lightning burned the umbrellas and passed through him into the ground without hurting him. He had burn marks on his fingers but was OK otherwise. Caviezel also was unharmed. When was the last time you knew of someone who was struck directly by lightning and survived alive, and unharmed?
"The Passion of the Christ" is a film like no other. It's surely the best Bible movie ever made. To hundreds of millions of Christians around the world, it is one of the greatest love stories ever made into a movie. And to movie buffs everywhere, it has to be considered among the best acting, historical and technical films ever made. For more details on the making of the movie, see the 2005 book, "Inside the Passion," by John Bartunek.