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April 6, 2010
The Passion of the Christ Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
29/10/20091/3/2010Icon FilmsMel Gibson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+James Caviezel

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James Caviezel is brilliant as Jesus Christ.
When it was announced that Mel Gibson's next directorial effort after his Academy Award winning effort in Braveheart would be based on the death of Jesus Christ many thought that he was partially mad, but that the movie would be a commercial failure. perhaps for that reason the budget was only given a $US30 million budget which was a pittance compared to most other major productions. As we all know, the film was a massive hit amassing a staggering $611 million worldwide at the box office.

In terms of storyline The Passion of the Christ focuses on the last twelve hours of Jesus Christ's life before his crucifixion. There are some flashbacks to expand the story of other characters in the movie but essentially this shows the suffering the man went through in support of his beliefs.

We must say that James Caviezel is superb as Jesus and even suffered for his cause while filming. During the scene where he is being whipped he was struck twice, and now has a permanent scar on his back, was struck by lightning and suffered hypothermia. Even with all that his performance rises above almost all others and it's a shame that he was not nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his efforts. The film though did well with three nominations including Best Original Score, Makeup and Cinematography.

One aspect of this movie which parents in particular should be aware of is the level of violence. This is a graphically violent film and one which even some adults may find goes beyond what one would expect. Having said that I have no issues with the violence. When a mans ear is cut off, yes, there will be blood. When a man is whipped there will be blood and flesh wounds and when a man is nailed to a cross you expect to see pain. This is exactly how it would be in real life and I have no issues with Mel Gibson showing the suffering. If this is too much for you though you will be glad to hear that this Blu-Ray includes the "Recut" version which removes much of the gore.

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Jesus is on trial in The Passion of The Christ.
The Passion of the Christ, whether you are a religious person or not, is a superb movie well worth your time. Both the direction, and performances in this movie are stunning.

It's fair to say that, for the most part, Icon Films provide very solid, if not exceptional transfers and that is the case here yet again. Using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and presented in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 The Passion of the Christ, which we might add was filmed on a very tight budget of only $US30 million, looks fantastic. It appears that the scenes have been given colour tones applicable to the location or time of day. Night scenes are predominantly dark blue in tone, those indoors - such as those at the trial of Jesus - are almost sepia toned with warm colours while those outdoors during the day are quite bright and colourful although they retain a sandy, earthy colour palette. Detail levels, colour reproduction and sharpness on the Blu-Ray puts it streets ahead of the DVD so if you have a Blu-Ray player and HDTV then this is certainly the version of choice.

The Passion of the Christ is presented on Blu-Ray with a glorious DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) which is as reference quality as you could ever hope for with clear dialogue (not that we can speak the three languages of Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew), some solid use of surround sound channels and gorgeous orchestral music, filled with influences from the region, from John Debney (which, incidentally, was nominated for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score at the Academy Awards).

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You need not be religious to enjoy this film.
There are no other main audio tracks as Mel Gibson wanted to show the movie in the original languages only (and early in production he even toyed with the idea no subtitles to let the pictures convey the message - fortunately that idea was abandoned). Of course without English dialogue or dubbing the only option is to read the subtitles and we're pleased to report that they are in a large, clear font with good pacing giving you time to read all the dialogue. The disc also includes an English Hard of Hearing subtitle track for those requiring it.

The Passion of the Christ is presented on Blu-Ray with some extras on the first disc, but also contains a second DVD which is choc full of superb extras worth checking out.

Footnotes (Original Version): This is essentially a Trivia Track for the original version of the movie. These notes are quite interesting, however the font and background colour used (white on yellow) makes it hard to read unless you have a large enough screen (or sit close enough).

Filmmaker Commentary with Director/Producer/Co-Sceenwriter Mel Gibson, Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and Editor John Wright: Probably the most entertaining commentary this is fairly traditional in that it covers the production of the film from the story to the actors and the filming locations and sets.

Production Commentary with Stephen McEveety, Ted Rae and Keith Vanderlaan: Here we have the Producer, Visual Effects Supervisor/Second Unit Director and Visual Effects Designer who, as you can imagine, provide a track focused on the films visual effects and general production.

Theological Commentary with Mel Gibson, Language Consultant and Translator Father William J Fulco, and Theologicans Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek: This was probably the most interesting of the audio commentaries on the disc which, while not overly lively, provides the best insight into the storyline and the themes in the movie.

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Jesus suffers before his crucifixion.
Music Commentary by Composer John Debney: This commentary only runs in selected scenes but provides some interesting details into the ideas behind the various music in the movie.

Disc 2: We now move onto the second disc which is a DVD full of extras which are not only numerous but also superb in quality.

By His Wounds We Are Healed: Making The Passion Of The Christ (1:40:32): It's not too often that you get a documentary as comprehensive and complete as this one which chronicles the complete conception, production and release of this movie including topics such as remaining faithful to the Bible, the use of original languages, directing the film, visual effects, the violence, editing and the decision to include subtitles and marketing for release. Mel Gibson is very passionate about the film, and indeed religion, and this comes across in the numerous interview segments.

Below The Line Panel Discussion (13:51): This is a Q&A session with many of the filmmakers in which they answer several questions about the production.

Deleted Scenes (4:43): It's a shame these aren't in HD on Blu-Ray, but here we have two deleted scenes "Pilate" and "Don't Cry".

Through The Ages (12:00): This featurette looks at the portrayal of Jesus Christ and other sacred images through various artworks over time. It's fairly interesting too.

Paths of a Journey (9:25): This featurette looks at Christ's path to the crucifixion and what remains today of the original locations. This is quite fascinating and definitely worth checking out.

On Language (12:46): The Passion of the Christ is a unique film in that it uses the original languages including Arameic and this featurette looks at the scholar who helped the producers recreate the ancient languages.

Crucifixion: Punishment in the Ancient World (17:29): Crucifixion is certainly a brutal death and this featurette looks at this form of capital punishment through the ages dating back to the Persians. Quite detailed and with some solid interviews this is worth a look.

Anno Domini (10:05): So what happened to the disciples after Jesus Christ died? This featurette fills in some of the subsequent events.

Production Art: Here you will find dozens of images across the following categories; Costume and Set Design, Technical Drawings, Storyboards ("Garden of Olives", "The Flogging", "Crucifixion FX" and "Raising The Cross").

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Lighting in The Passion of the Christ is superb.
Historical Texts: This contains pages from the bible with many of the passages most relevant to the movie.

Art Images: I have to say I really enjoyed this art collection. Split up into the fourteen stations this shows artworks over the ages from each of these moments from the trial of Jesus to the Crucifixion.

Characters and their Actors: The title says it all really with images of the actors playing the main characters in the movie, but there is also some biographical information about each person too which is nice.

Unit Photography: This is a collection of still images of the cast and crew on-set while filming The Passion of the Christ.

Trailers and TV Spots (4:46): "Theatrical Trailer G", "Theatrical Trailer R" "Drums TV Spot" and "Devotion TV Spot" are presented here.

DVD Credits: This is something I would love to see more of, especially on well produced Blu-Ray and DVD sets such as this. Give people credit, where credit's due.

A film which so many expected to fail at the box office turned out to be one of the biggest of the last decade. It really is a brilliant movie and you need not be religious to get much out of this movie. It is gruesome in parts, but also riveting and Icon Films have provided a fantastic transfer and a bucket load of extras making this an essential purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.