The Return of the Eternal King : A Film Review of The Passion of the Christ

Published in the February, 2004, issue of Catholic World Report

I have to admit I was skeptical. The Passion of the Christ had received the highest praise from people who had seen the advance screening. Nevertheless, when I was invited to attend a preview for Christian pastors and ministry leaders in my region, I went with a certain reluctance. I had expected to remain unmoved, distanced, analytical, as I watched yet another version of the greatest story ever told. Of the several films of Christ’s life that I had seen over the years, all had been flawed in some way. They offered either good but idiosyncratic acting, or mediocre acting with meticulously researched sets, or the cinematic equivalent of a saccharine holy card, and of course the inevitable schlock music pumping the emotions to compensate for limping film techniques. I was certain that any attempt to personify Christ would be a disappointment, because it could never match the interior icon each of us has in the heart of the soul. The best portrayal, to my mind, had been in Ben Hur, where we never see the face of Jesus.