Throughout its unsurpassed box office run earlier this year, director Mel Gibson’s lifelong pet project, The Passion of the Christ – released on DVD Aug. 31 – managed to either inspire people in a magically spiritual way or, just as strongly in the opposite direction, fill their hearts with disdain for Gibson and what some called an unfaithful recollection of the last few hours in the life of the Bible’s most iconic figure.

Whichever way one chooses to go, though, there is one thing that can be said for certain about The Passion (which, in the context of this film, means "the suffering") – it is a film that can definitely be credited with stirring up a massive amount of controversy.

Controversy aside, there is a lot to be said about The Passion from a purely filmic perspective. The film, shot entirely in Aramaic and Latin with limited English subtitles, boldly – or, more like graphically – depicts the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, with the majority of the film focusing on his daunting walk carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, all the way up to Golgotha, where he is then nailed to it and later crucified.

Whether one is hardcore religious or not, there are certainly aspects of the film – outside the story itself, and the themes of harrowing courage and sacrifice – that can, and should, be outright appreciated. Jim Caviezel’s performance as Jesus is haunting and daunting at best and, at times, we may even want to wince at what Caviezel (whose other film credits include Angel Eyes and Frequency) is going through during the course of the film.

Gibson’s direction, for which he’s perhaps best known for helming the epic Braveheart about the life of Scotland’s notorious William Wallace, is powerful and honest and, by watching the film, one can tell that he’s been in love with the idea of making The Passion for a very long time. Aesthetically, the cinematography – by Caleb Deschanel, who also shot the Gibson-headlined vehicle The Patriot – is broodingly breathtaking, definitely adding to the saddened undertones of the film. The score, by John Debney, is nothing short of glorious in its contributions to the film’s heavy-handed drama.

The DVD itself contains nothing but the film – albeit wonderfully transferred – and, in that context, offers audiences no commentary, no featurettes, no cast and crew interviews. So maybe, just maybe, it’s Gibson’s intention to let the film stand on its own, with no need for outside interference.

DVD Grade: A-