Passion of the Christ, The: Director's Edition (Blu-ray) (2004)

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Released 6-Apr-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary
Alternative Version
Informational Subtitles
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 126:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mel Gibson
Studio
Distributor

Icon Entertainment
Starring James Caviezel
Maia Morgenstern
Hristo Jivkov
Francesco De Vito
Monica Bellucci
Mattia Sbragia
Toni Bertorelli
Luca Lionello
Hristo Shopov
Claudia Gerini
Fabio Sartor
Giacinto Ferro
Olek Mincer
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music John Debney
Jack Lenz


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Latin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Directed, co-written, and co-produced by Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ grossed over 600 million USD at the box office. It remains the highest grossing foreign language film to date, and also remains in the Top 50 Box Office earners of all-time. Put simply, based on the well-known story from the Scriptures, the film covers the arrest, trial, torture, execution, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although this story has been told many times, in countless art works, books, plays, musicals, and films, I have never seen it told in such a powerfully visceral, graphic, and compelling way. Released now in High Definition as part of a Two-Disc Director's Edition, the Blu-ray also includes a re-edited version of the film - The Passion Recut. But rather than merely recount this familiar story, in this review I have chosen to look at the controversial nature of the film, especially now in the light of Gibson's recent well-publicised outbursts.

    The story of Jesus Christ is well-known and The Passion of the Christ follows the same basic structure as presented in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with some additional non-liturgical material, such as those moments presented throughout in flashbacks, which have been added to flesh out the characters. Unlike many others, I have no problem with these added segments as they are in keeping with the characters and story, and add an interesting touch to a well-known tale. In the film we follow the arrest, trial, torture, execution, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But rather than recount this familiar well-known story, in this review I have chosen to look at the controversial nature of the film. That controversy seems to fall broadly into two camps - the first is the extremely violent nature of the film, and the second relates to the accusations of the film's anti-Semitism.

    Firstly, as for the violence, The Passion of the Christ is possibly the most violent and gruesome big-budget film I have ever seen. In an interview, Gibson claimed that: "This is a movie about love, hope, faith, and forgiveness". It seems that message might have gotten lost on some. On its original release, some film critics even described it as exploitation torture-porn, and even "the world's most expensive snuff film". Indeed, in some ways, The Passion of the Christ can be taken as one of Mel Gibson's long line of bloodthirsty, historical epics - with plenty of unnecessary and lengthy scenes of sadism. Indeed, Gibson's strange fascination with torture and violence reaches a new height with this film as we watch a man being ghoulishly tortured to death over about two hours. As I wrote in my review of Apocalypto ( http://www.michaeldvd.com.au/Reviews/Reviews.asp?ID=7791) "Gibson has never been a fan of subtlety, and now that he has the money and power to explore his love of cruelty and violence on the big-screen, we the viewers, are not spared any of his gratuitous, gory, theatrical visions".

    However, very importantly, the sadism and the suffering is exactly the point of The Passion of the Christ - after all, the traditional Christian view is that "by his wounds we were healed". This film is not designed to be a re-make of The Greatest Story Ever Told or King of Kings or even a biopic of Jesus Christ - this is The Passion. For those unaware, The Passion is the Christian theological term used to describe the suffering and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Anyone raised as a Christian - especially Catholic - would be familiar with the brutal and vivid accounts of the Stations of the Cross. While some have claimed the violence is presented without context, I feel it is entirely appropriate that Gibson has chosen not to provide a lengthy back-story. Even those not raised as Christians would be familiar with the story of Jesus - even if it only be through film or television. While many have described The Passion of the Christ as self-indulgent, to me it seems that it is with a very personal and passionate zeal, Gibson has chosen to shock us with his blood-spattered presentation of a well-known story.

    As for the claims of anti-Semitism, many have objected to the film's portrayal of its Jewish characters. I will admit that in The Passion of the Christ, Gibson's representation of those who he sees as 'bad Jews' physically resemble the racial stereotypes presented in Nazi propaganda films. That noted, the story is also filled with many 'good Jews' who are far more attractive, such as the gorgeous Italian movie-star, Monica Bellucci. I will set this racial-stereotype argument aside, as for me, what really lies at the heart of the anti-Semitism accusations is the film's portrayal of the Jewish high priest, Caiphus, who along with a corrupt Jewish rabble, demand Jesus' crucifixion. It has been accepted, at least since Vatican II, that as stated in the Apostle’s Creed, Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” But here, Gibson presents Pilate as a tragic victim who desperately wants to save Jesus. Put simply, it seems that according to Gibson, Pilate didn't want to crucify Jesus but the Jews made him do it! On a personal note, I will add that at the film's original release I did not hold this view, and argued with others that Gibson provided a fair, albeit bloody, interpretation of the Scriptures. Indeed, if one reads the Gospel according to John or Luke, this is a very accurate portrayal of the events as depicted in the Scriptures. But following Gibson's well-publicised personal problems, especially those relating to his recent anti-Semitic outbursts, it has become harder to defend this aspect of the film within that context. Regardless of our personal views, we can all at least acknowledge that Gibson has (rather bravely) not chosen to sit on the fence, nor make a politically correct film, but rather a deeply personal one that expresses his intense views on the subject. Interestingly, I didn't hear of any Italians complaining about the way the Romans are presented. During the film the Roman soldiers, apart from Pilate, are uniformly seen as an ignorant, brutish, evil, and sadistic bunch of cowards and bullies, who carry out their disgusting punishments and sadistic tortures with a psychotic zeal and blood-lust.

    In this review I have not discussed the film's incredible production values, outstanding costumes and sets, nor its beautiful lighting and cinematography. But before I move on to the Blu-ray's Transfer Quality, mention must be made of the acting: Jim Caviezel provides an extraordinary performance as Jesus, and manages to find depths as an actor that is rarely seen. It is one of the finest acting performances I have ever seen. The supporting cast is also wonderful, especially Maia Morgenstern who provides such an expressive face of a mother witnessing her child in utter pain. Unfortunately for them, due to the controversial nature of the film, they were all ignored by the major Awards shows, such as the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

    Finally, as mentioned above, released in High Definition as part of a Two-Disc Director's Edition, the Blu-ray also offers a re-edited version of the film - The Passion Recut. The original theatrical version of the film runs for 126:32, but the Passion Recut has been reduced to 121:51. Unlike most Director's Cuts which add footage and extend the film's running time, in 2005 Gibson chose to have the film re-edited to remove some of its more gruesome moments of violence, to find an even broader audience. These cuts do not diminish the emotional impact of the film, nor the overall brutal nature of it.

    Note: As the Passion Recut is listed as an extra, all the times below refer to the original theatrical cut of the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

As with the previous DVD, the transfer for the BD of The Passion of the Christ is excellent. It has been mastered in 1920 x 1080p, using AVC MPEG-4 compression.

    The High Definition transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is very close to the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1.

    The sharpness of the high definition transfer is good. For example, consider the fine detail of the people in the crowd at 69:04 and the incredible definition in the street-scene at 79:29. The black level is perfect, with true deep blacks. The shadow detail is also excellent, for example I loved the scene filmed with the appearance of ambient sunlight at 44:26.

    Caleb Deschanel's beautiful cinematography and the film's colour palette suits the film perfectly. Visually, the film is superb, shot in southern Italy in dusty locations, with interiors that are lit to resemble a Caravaggio painting come to life. The transfer boasts a beautiful palette of earthy and dusty hues which brilliantly capture the time, setting, and mood of the story. As always, Gibson uses colour well to help tell his story, such as the a dark sense of foreboding in the moody, bluish tones in the film's opening in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    While there is some fine film grain noticeable at times, the cause for this lies in the source material. There are no problems with the transfer in regards to MPEG, film artefacts, or film-to-video artefacts.

     Only English subtitles are provided. This is a BD-50 (50 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature (for both versions of the film) divided into 15 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Passion of the Christ boasts a wonderful sound design and the BD's audio is excellent.

    Originally released theatrically in Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS surround audio, there is one audio option on this BD: English dts-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround in the Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew languages. There are also four English Audio commentaries, all presented in English Dolby 2.0 (encoded at 224 kbps). These audio commentaries only work when watching the original theatrical version of the film. There is no English language dub of the feature.

    There is extensive use of ADR, but the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout.

    The original orchestral musical score was provided by John Debney, who has provided a beautifully ethnic-flavoured score filled with emotion and orchestrated with unusual instruments and vocals. Debney's orchestral score effectively underlines the emotions in the film.

    The surround presence and activity is excellent and enveloping. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide a lot of ambience throughout. There are a number of rear directional effects which includes panning between speakers. There are also some nice touches with some more subtle rear sound effects, such as the background ambience during the film's many crowd scenes.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively and the LFE track is used well for great effect throughout in supporting both the film's score and the film's effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Unlike the original bare-bones DVD release, the The Passion of the Christ BD will be released as a two-disc Director's Edition, loaded with extras:

Floating Menus

    As with other blu-rays the menus can be accessed while the film is playing.

Disc One

The Passion Recut

    As mentioned above, released in High Definition as part of a Two-Disc Definitive Edition, the Blu-ray also offers a re-edited version of the film - The Passion Recut. The original theatrical version of the film runs for 126:32, but the Passion Recut has been reduced to 121:51. Unlike most Director's Cuts which add footage and extend the film's running time, in 2005 Gibson chose to have the film re-edited to remove some of its more gruesome moments of violence, to find an even broader audience. These cuts do not diminish the emotional impact of the film, nor the overall brutal nature of it.

Footnotes

    Text-based facts and trivia appear onscreen when the film is played with this option turned on. It only works with the original theatrical version of the film, and I did find a lot of the information interesting.

Audio Commentaries

    Four English Audio commentaries, all presented in English Dolby 2.0 (encoded at 224 kbps), have been provided. These audio commentaries only work when watching the original theatrical version of the film. I found the most interesting to be the Theologian Commentary with Mel Gibson, Father William J. Fulco, Gerry Matatics, and Father John Bartunek. Of note, Father Fulco is a biblical and historical scholar who translated the English screenplay by Benedict Fitzgerald and Mel Gibson into the Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew languages presented in the film.

Disc Two

    The extras on the second disc all date from 2005, and are provided in standard definition in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital Stereo Audio (192 kbps). The extras are divided into the following sections:

Filmmaking

The Legacy

Galleries

    The image galleries include production art, historical texts, art images (the Stations of the Cross as depicted through art), characters and their actors, unit photography, as well as two theatrical trailers (one G and one R-rated) and two TV spots and DVD credits.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This appears to be the same release as the US BD.

Summary

     The Passion of the Christ remains a controversial film, but it also remains a deeply emotional and moving film. Exceptionally well-made and beautifully presented in high definition, I would encourage any owner of the DVD to 'upgrade' to the BD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent.

    The extras are genuine and interesting

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

Other Reviews NONE
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