What the critics are saying
Opinion divided on Gibson's 'Passion'
James Caviezel in "The Passion of the Christ."
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CNN's Paul Clinton says Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' is a bloody, violent and emotionally powerful film.
CNN's Beth Nissen reports on the historical accuracy of 'The Passion of the Christ.'
Actor Jim Caviezel talks with CNN's Paula Zahn about the challenges of portraying Jesus in 'The Passion of the Christ.'
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(CNN) -- If ever there was a movie for which critical opinion can be said to be evenly divided, it's Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
A look at rottentomatoes.com, which compiles reviews of every movie in release, shows "Passion" with 38 favorable reviews of 71 counted, or 54 percent (as of 11 a.m. Wednesday).
Moreover, those reviews are often in stark contrast to one another. The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert, in giving the movie his highest rating of four stars, said "I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what," though he added, "This is the most violent film I have ever seen."
On the other side, Slate's David Edelstein -- in a review headlined "Jesus H. Christ: 'The Passion,' Mel Gibson's bloody mess" -- says "This is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie -- 'The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre' -- that thinks it's an act of faith."
Here is a sampling of other reviews:
"Mr. Gibson has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one. It is disheartening to see a film made with evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly lacking in grace."
-- A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"This is a movie so singular, so intense, so overwhelming that it simply has to be experienced."
-- Phil Kloer, Atlanta Journal/Constitution
"By filming New Testament Gospels with Old Testament fire and brimstone, his 'Passion' emerges as something contrary to Jesus's spirit: unforgiving."
-- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"From his arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane to his final breath on the cross at Golgotha, 'The Passion' interprets the story with a fresh reality -- and a raw brutality -- unlike anything ever seen before. It is an intense, relentlessly gripping interpretation of the ancient saga."
-- Jack Garner, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
"It's a stylish and visually polished re-creation of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus -- unrelieved suffering and martyrdom, in other words. Controversy over whether it will inflame anti-Semitism guarantees huge audiences, and many people may be profoundly moved. But as a film it is quite bad."
-- Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle
"The film is a brutal, blood-soaked plea for compassion and understanding in the face of monstrosity. There is a purity -- an openhearted zeal -- to the picture that is forthright and breathtaking. And it is, first and foremost, exemplary filmmaking."
-- Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly
"I have no doubt that Mel Gibson loves Jesus. From the evidence of 'The Passion of the Christ,' however, what he seems to love as much is the cinematic depiction of flayed, severed, swollen, scarred flesh and rivulets of spilled blood, the crack of bashed bones and the groans of someone enduring the ultimate physical agony."
-- David Ansen, Newsweek
"Images take precedence over dialogue here. And those images are graphic, unsettling and undeniably powerful."
-- Chris Vogner, Dallas Morning News