Roger Ebert rates The Passion of the Christ four stars (out of four):
It is a film about an idea. An idea that it is necessary to fully comprehend the Passion if Christianity is to make any sense. Gibson has communicated his idea with a singleminded urgency. Many will disagree. Some will agree, but be horrified by the graphic treatment. I myself am no longer religious in the sense that a long-ago altar boy thought he should be, but I can respond to the power of belief whether I agree or not, and when I find it in a film, I must respect it.
That is it in a nutshell. The movie is about the idea that must be understood if Christianity is to make any sense.
Those who see The Passion without understanding that the blood sacrifice of Jesus was required for man’s salvation will see this movie as a needlessly graphic depiction of the death of just one Jew among thousands killed by the Romans during their brutal first-century occupation of Palestine. As such, the film and its violence will have no meaning for them. I believe that’s the basis for many, if not most, of the negative reviews of The Passion and Mel Gibson’s treatment of the event.