NEW YORK – Wednesday is judgment day for Mel Gibson. That’s when “The Passion of the Christ” opens in nearly 3,000 theaters across the country.
The film has already sparked great controversy over its depiction of Jews – some groups are calling director, producer and co-writer Gibson anti-Semitic – and its extreme violence.
Many Jewish leaders fear the film fosters the idea that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, himself a Jew. Its portrayal of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life is brutally, relentlessly gory – and that's the reason “The Passion” is rated-R.
Gibson, for his part, has said that to be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian, and he’s not. He’s also defended the film’s violent content. He wanted it to be shocking, he said, to show audiences how Christ suffered for the sins of others.
Visually, "The Passion" is quite rich; the opening shot of Christ in the Garden of Olives is particularly haunting. Much of the emotional content of the movie comes through the actors' eyes, but since the film only covers Christ's last 12 hours, his persecution is the focus.
Roman governor Pontius Pilate is depicted as morally torn over the death of Christ, while King Herod comes across as little more than a buffoon. At the heart of the film, Gibson said, is what Christ physically endured leading up to and during his crucifixion.
Shot in Latin and Aramaic with English subtitles, the film has flashback scenes of Christ – played by actor James Caviezel — as a child, a carpenter and a host of the Last Supper.
Gibson spent $25 million of his own money to make the film and millions more to promote it. With advance ticket sales made by numerous Christian groups and available online, audiences could earn the movie nearly $50 million in its first five days in theaters.
Click here for a fair and balanced report by Fox News' Lisa Bernhard.