no matter what religious context you bring to the film, you will find that the critics who wrote or spoke of a festival of gore have misled you. This is not like the blood-thirsty movies that kill people left and right and seek for new and excruciating ways to titillate an audience. There is nothing here designed to promote a corpse-filled computer game.
In this movie, violence is shown as appalling, evil, vengeful, malicious. The moral context is never lost. The people in the film recoil from precisely the same actions that we recoil from. If some critics can’t see the difference between this film and movies that delight in casual violence, they’re in the wrong line of work.
The violence is not what makes us weep.
All my tears in this movie were shed in empathy for those who loved Jesus, and in gratitude for those who are shown attempting to be kind to him. I was moved by Pilate’s wife, who knows what is right and tries to do the one small thing that is possible for her. I was moved by Mary’s love for her son. I was moved by the epiphany that came to the reluctant cross-bearer, Simon of Cyrene; by the shame and empathy discovered by one of the soldiers — the one required to pierce Jesus’ body with a spear, but who can hardly bear to do it in front of his mother.
The woman who brings him water to drink at one of the stations of the cross; Pilate himself, caught in a terrible political situation where he has no good choice, but chooses his career over his integrity and makes the futile, empty gesture of washing his hands; the “good thief” (Francesco Cabras) who is promised paradise on the cross — it was goodness, or the yearning for goodness, that brought tears to my eyes.
There is no competing record to refute the depiction in the gospels. So to say Gibson should not have shown Jewish leaders being the driving force behind the killing of Jesus is to say that Christians are not allowed to actually believe in or dramatize their own scripture.
There’s a lot more good stuff there as always. He also ends with a letter to Mel Gibson that’s worth a read concerning Card’s suggestions for what to do with the profits and what to do when Oscar time rolls around next year.