DVD Picks& Passes

The Passion of the Christ: Definitive edition - Pick


Catch a Fire - Pass


The original DVD edition of The Passion of the Christ was a “bare bones” edition featuring only the film itself. This week’s two-disc “Definitive Edition” is packed with extras, from the Passion Recut (which trims about six minutes of some of the most intense violence) to four separate commentaries.

The theological commentary is often fascinating, offering many insights into the symbolism and details of the film and providing helpful Scriptural and historical context on the film’s content. Even viewers who have seen the movie many times will gain new insights and have a new appreciation for the film’s artistic richness and thematic profundity.

There’s also some defensive posturing around some of the more controversial aspects of the film, such as the contrast between the inscrutable, one-dimensionally villainous Caiaphas and the far more nuanced and developed Pilate. Criticisms of the film are mentioned but not adequately framed before being dismissed.

Still, the commentary adds a great deal to the film. Non-Catholic viewers will be exposed to some Catholic apologetics regarding Peter, the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist, while Gibson and Gerry Matatics (a sedevacantist and Feeneyite) mercifully avoid offending Catholic viewers with their problematic views.

Also new on DVD this week, Catch a Fire stars Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) and Tim Robbins in an apartheid drama based on a true story. Luke plays Patrick Chamusso, an oil-refinery foreman wrongly arrested and tortured for African National Congress terrorism against the white-rule government. Ironically, this experience prompts the previously apolitical Chamusso to become in fact what he was falsely accused of being, and he leaves his family to join the ANC.

This story touches upon a number of potentially interesting themes. There’s the morality of the type of “victimless terrorism” Chamusso plots (which involves destroying symbolic targets while making every effort to avoid bloodshed), to the choices Chamusso makes to take a stand against the government even at the expense of his role as a husband and father, to the potential of government strong-arm tactics to create more enemies than they eliminate.

Unfortunately, Catch a Fire is too superficial to develop these themes in an interesting way. The film offers no real insight into the apartheid state, instead relying on emotional button-pushing.

It’s not bad, but it’s not especially enlightening, either.

Content advisory The Passion of the Christ: Extreme passion narrative brutality; some frightening and disturbing imagery. Subtitles. Mature viewing. Catch a Fire: Depictions of torture and some violence; an obscenity and some crude language; a subplot involving infidelity (nothing onscreen). Occasional subtitles. Mature viewing.