What about the fact that only Romans had the power to crucify and the fact that Pilate was a tyrant who had a record of quashing any potential resurrection against the State and the fact that he himself had good enough reason for crucifying Jesus and the fact that all of this is not just neglected by Gibson's film...
Actually, I knew all that--which is why I agree that the movie went too easy on ol' Pontius.
I'm just not making the "Ah ha! Racism!" connection that you're making.
Although, I can handle how Adam F put it more.
Knowing this stuff (very possibly better than you do), I was puzzled by why Gibson made Pilate sort of... likable, as I said previously.
However, with a background in Bible history, comparative theology, etc., my
reaction was more on the level of "Why did he tone that part down?" than "Ah ha! He's toning that down because he wants to send pre-Vatican II anti-semitic messages to people who don't know this stuff well enough to know all the backstory! The cad!!"
I guess Gibson has said that he views Pilate as a weak man, and there are hints of that in the flick. He is indecisive, and while he is interested in pleasing his wife, saving Christ's life and avoiding riots in the streets... he still doesn't do the right thing and... I dunno, pardon Jesus and then slip him out of town with a few denarii in his pocket.
Ordering Jesus severely beaten ain't exactly a positive
thing, you know. Going along with the throng shouting for Jesus' death isn't exactly dodging the blame bullet.
It was pretty clear that Pilate could have easily gone against his natural inclination toward killing troublemakers if he had really wanted to, so guess what Reese... he's responsible.
It was just sort of subtle (at least in contrast to other parts of the film).
And as far as Caiphas goes, the Bible portrays him as one of the bad guys.
To me, getting worked up about that actor's portrayal of Caiphas is like saying Alan Rickman was being anti-British when he played the sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.