Film critics weigh in on ‘The Passion’

From staff and wire reports

Here’s a sampling of what some movie critics think about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

“Relentlessly savage, ‘The Passion’ plays like the Gospel according to the Marquis de Sade. The film that has been getting rapturous advance raves from evangelical Christians turns out to be an R-rated inspirational movie no child can, or should, see. To these secular eyes at least, Gibson’s movie is more likely to inspire nightmares than devotion.”

David Ansen



“A surprisingly violent narrative that falls in danger of altering Jesus’ message of love into one of hate.... One of the cruelest movies in the history of cinema.... The movie Gibson has made from his personal obsessions is a sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood and agony.”


David Denby

The New Yorker


“It’s a very great film. It’s the only religious film I’ve seen, with the exception of ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew’ by Pasolini, that really seems to deal directly with what happened instead of with all kinds of sentimentalized, cleaned up, postcard versions of it.”

Roger Ebert

“Ebert & Roeper”


“Where, one wonders throughout, is the ‘tolerance, love and forgiveness’ that Gibson has promised his audience? Where, beyond some furtive snatches of back story, is the buoyant embrace of life and hope that Christ’s message represents to millions? This movie is little else besides a depiction of punishment so ruthless and unyielding that watching it unfold feels like punishment.”

Gene Seymour



“What is the audience for this Passion? Many Christians -- who would appreciate the message -- may be repelled by the film’s unrelenting bloodletting. The teen boys who make box-office winners every Friday night may like the blood, but they want their heroes to fight back and blow stuff up. Nor is this exactly a date movie. No, the audience profile for ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is fairly narrow: true believers with cast-iron stomachs; people who can stand to be grossed out as they are edified. And a few movie critics who can’t help admiring Mad Mel for the spiritual compulsion that drove him to invent a new genre -- the religious splatter-art film -- and bring it to searing life, death and resurrection.”

Richard Corliss



“The bloodiest story ever told.... Gibson’s fervor belongs as much to the realm of sadomasochism as to Christian piety.”

Peter Rainer

New York


“Gibson, as director, producer and co-writer, is fetishistic in his depiction of the pain Jesus suffered during the last 12 hours of his life. The beating and whipping and ripping of skin become so repetitive, they’ll leave the audience emotionally drained and stunned.

“Yes, yes. That’s the point, 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.”

Christy Lemire

Associated Press