Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
The Passion doesn't suffer from the airless, pious airs that drag down most biblical dramas: It has a muscular, pounding energy and lyrical, almost gothic beauty.
In the end, one can respect Gibson's high intentions and dedicated work, while remaining spiritually and dramatically unmoved by the result.
If I were a Christian, I'd be appalled to have this primitive and pornographic bloodbath presume to speak for me.
Gibson ultimately seems to be preaching to the choir, rejecting standard storytelling conventions such as introducing his characters, assuming his audience already knows everything he's about to tell us.
This is a two-hour-and- six-minute snuff movie -- The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre -- that thinks it's an act of faith.
Ebert & Roeper:
This is the most powerful, important and by far the most graphic interpretation of Christ's final hours ever put on film.
The basic message of Christianity -- love your brother -- is obscured under torrents of blood to the point of benumbing the audience.
If you come seeking theological subtlety, let alone such modern inventions as psychological depth, you'll walk away battered and empty-handed.
Controversy over whether it will inflame anti-Semitism guarantees huge audiences, and many people may be profoundly moved. But as a film it is quite bad.
Paul Clinton (CNN.com),
Controversy aside, The Passion is ultimately a movie -- and a masterful one at that, obviously the work of an extremely talented filmmaker.
Blood-soaked pop theology for a doom-laden time, its effect that of a gripping yet reductive paradox: It lifts us downward.
Dallas Morning News:
Controversy aside, it is dramatically intense, skillfully constructed and often harrowing, in ways that should have an impact on people of any or no particular faith.
A big, bold, nightmarishly beautiful film not just about the dawn of the Christian faith, but about the awful tendency of human communities (wherever and whenever in the world they may exist) toward self-preservation, intolerance and mob rule.
Mel Gibson shows once again that he's skilled at depicting violence. But you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of 'tolerance, love and forgiveness' that the producer-director-co-writer insists he's trying to communicate.
Instead of being moved by Christ's suffering, or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins.
As a true reading of the Gospels -- the director's much-vaunted aim -- the film falls abruptly short.
New York Times:
The Passion of the Christ is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it.
A gripping, powerful motion picture -- arguably the most forceful depiction of Jesus' death ever to be committed to film.
I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Instead of letting his reverence broaden him, Gibson uses his action-movie expertise to reduce the Crucifixion to something kinetic, literal and merely tragic.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Regardless of how you feel about the movie's message, you're certain to leave the movie feeling something about the movie itself.
Globe and Mail:
So obsessively and so graphically bloody-minded that it comes perilously close to the pornography of violence.
What graphic sex is to the use of the body in hardcore porno, graphic violence is to destruction of the body of Christ in this Passion.
[Gibson] has made a serious, handsome, excruciating film that radiates total commitment.
A negative and spiritually underwhelming experience.
The New Republic:
[Gibson's] film, virtually stripped of Jesus's incandescent views, is little more that a record of one of the thousands of barbarities committed by the Romans in Judea.
Despite controversies swirling around the movie, one cannot deny that Gibson has made a stunning film, beautifully photographed in contrasting dark and golden hues by Caleb Deschanel.
Gravely intense and the work of a man as deeply committed to his subject as one could hope for or, for that matter, want.
Less reverential than razzle-dazzlin', more an episode in the history of show business than a religious epiphany.