After much careful deliberation, DOB and I overcame our natural skinflintedness (compounded by trying to simultaneously pay for a new business, new house, and new baby) and general inbred prejudices against movie theaters and determined to go see The Passion. It probably helped us in this decision that we are rather out of mainstream evangelical culture and nobody tried to talk us into going. So we could satisfy our contrarian tendencies and go to it to defy the critics and naysayers.
I was a little nervous because I'd never seen an R-rated movie before and I kept reading reviews by all these movie reviewers saying they found it overly gory--so if people who watch this stuff all the time were grossed out about it, how would I handle it? But the conclusion I have come to is that the people who complain about the violence are those who don't get why. Yes, you sit there and wonder, "Why don't they stop doing this to him?" but if you are expecting to be reminded of the magnitude of Christ's suffering, you get what you are looking for. It is too much violence to be entertaining (unless you are a Roman soldier) but not too much to be devotional.
Some reviewers have complained that Pilate was portrayed too sympathetically, in contrast with the portrayal of the Sanhedrin. But Pilate's portrayal was one of the most powerful and convicting parts of the film. You feel convinced that you have met Pilate somewhere, at a conference or something. And gradually it dawns on you--Pilate is us. Pilate is a modern American. Most of us don't think of ourselves as the sole representatives of the One True God, nor are we debauched hereditary monarchs or trained sadistic brutes. We would have little identification with the Sanhedrin or Herod or the foot soldiers however they were portrayed. But Pilate is a businessman. A businessman with a crummy assignment in middle management and a pointy-wreathed boss breathing down his neck. In person, he wouldn't hurt a fly. But when faced with the choice between saving his skin and condemning a man whom he knows to be innocent and suspects to be divine, he chooses the expedient option. He feels bad about it, but what can he do? Who really knows the truth, anyway?
And as you watch him, you know that you could do the same.