'Passion' draws 'brave' reviews

February 26, 2004|HERB BROCK

A lot of words have been written and spoken over the last several weeks about "The Passion of the Christ" by people who haven't seen the controversial movie. Eric Woolridge saw it Wednesday afternoon but had a hard time uttering a single word about it.

Wooldrige, a Stanford man who is in his early 20s, was walking slowly with a couple of friends from the Danville Cinemas 4 to his pickup truck when he was asked what he thought about the film. He held the door to the truck he had just opened for his friends, looked skyward and paused for almost a minute.

He then broke his speechlessness and said, shaking his head, "Amazing. That someone was willing to go through all of that for my soul." His voice then trailed off.

"Amazing" was just one of the strong, mostly positive adjectives used by some of the scores of people who saw the debut showing of Mel Gibson's movie about the last 12 hours of Christ's life at the Danville movie theater complex in Danville Manor Shopping Center. Others included "stunning," "humbling," "awesome" and "gory."


But perhaps the most popular word used by moviegoers to describe their reaction to the film was "brave." Three different people said the movie portrayed Christ as "brave" for the way he endured the torture of his last hours on earth, and two others called Gibson "brave" for producing the movie amid constant, often vehement criticism.

And as far as critics' charges that the R-rated movie is overly violent, anti-Semitic and not accurate historically or Biblically, all 12 people interviewed strongly disagreed.

"All of that (criticism) is nonsense, and it's from people who haven't seen the movie and have some political or social agenda requiring them to react the way they have," said Jason Crawford of Washington County.

"Yes, the movie is R-rated (children under 17 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian) because there is violence, but that is what Christ went through for us," Crawford said. "The English subtitles (run at the bottom of the screen while the actors spoke Aramaic) was more of a problem than the violence.

"But it is not anti-Semitic. The Romans were the real villains," he said. "Actually, all sinners are the real villains. It's not about Jews or Romans being responsible for Christ's torture in death. It's about all of mankind. And, as a person who has read and studied the Bible all my life, I can say (the movie) is true to the Gospels. It really has given a boost to my faith."

It also has given a boost to the Danville movie theater's bottom line.

More than 5,000 tickets have been "pre-sold"

According to Cindy Stephens, manager of the Carmike-owned theater, more than 5,000 tickets had been "pre-sold" for the film as of Wednesday afternoon, and many of them have gone to church groups. In fact, when Stephens was interviewed inside the theater, she was standing at the concession with three boxes of "The Passion of the Christ" tickets in front of her, handling orders from two people representing church groups.

The theater normally sells advance tickets only on the same day a movie is shown but is pre-selling them for the Gibson movie because of the high demand for tickets, Stephens said. However, pre-sold tickets must be purchased at the theater; it is not handling phone or Internet orders.

The theater also usually doesn't do group bookings, but is for this movie, she said. However, the theater is not offering group rates; all tickets are $3 each, she said.

The movie, which is two hours and 20 minutes long, is showing daily, on weekdays and weekends, at 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. It is being shown in the theater's largest auditorium, which has 220 seats. "We are anticipating showing the movie all the way through the whole month of March," Stephens said. "That's not definite but, based on the ticket demand we've had so far, I would say it's likely."

As far as the first members of the general public to the see the movie in Danville are concerned, the movie matches the demand. They believe subsequent viewers will not be disappointed.

"Totally awesome," said John Ferguson of Danville. "The movie puts what I've read in the Bible into a compelling visual picture."

Concerning charges that the film is too violent, Ferguson said, ""Violent? I don't see where it could be called too violent when that's what happened to Christ, when that was the truth."

"It was gory," said Bobby Bryant of Danville. "But the fact is, what happened to Christ was gory. It's shocking, but the least we can do as Christians is at least sample what He went through for us, at least watch it and try to feel just a little of the pain he endured for us."

Lauren McDaniel of Stanford said the film was "very moving" and reinforced her Christian faith, and Bobbye Mullins of Yosemite said the movie would be "very meaningful" for any Christian.

"There was blood and torture, but those things are in the Scriptures," Mullins said. "The movie is true to the Scriptures."

Donna Hill of Middleburg agreed, saying the movie was a "wonderful portrayal of how our Savior sacrificed his earthly body for us" and that portrayal is "based on the Gospels."

"Anyone who has grown up reading the Bible like I have can follow the movie easily," said Hill. "The movie simply puts on film what is in the Bible."

Meanwhile, Shirley Bryant of Danville had to hesitate before giving her reaction to the film. Like Eric Wooldridge of Stanford, she was almost too moved to say anything.

After a few seconds, Bryant said, "It's hard to put into words." She paused again and then said, "As moving as it is, and I'm still feeling the emotion, it also makes you think. It makes you appreciate the suffering Christ went through for us and makes you want to appreciate it every day of the week, not just on Sundays."

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