on 17 November 2006
This is such an underrated film. In fact many people I speak to have never even heard of it. I watched it initially because of the haunting soundtrack (it would be worth watching for this alone) and was gripped by the storyline. This film shows the devestating effect that colonisation by Europeans had on the native tribes of the Amazon as well as telling the story of courageous missionaries trying to protect those they felt called to serve.
It is beautifully filmed in Uruguay and uses actors from local tribes to add authenticity to the portrayal. The cast are superb with excellent performances from Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons as priests with very different perspectives on the situation they find themselves in.
This film is now available at a ridiculously low price so snap it up and add a film of true quality to your collection. At very least add it to your rental list.
I sometimes struggle to remember why I liked certain films so much but as I get older and my memory fades I use a simple acid test. If I remember them so well after so many years with my memory, then it must be pretty good. And yes I remember much of "The Mission". It sets its sights very high indeed and deals in weighty emotive subjects. The inexorable expansion of civilisation and the effects of those native peoples that come under its influence.
The story revolves around the evangelical efforts of Roman Catholic priests to convert the local South American natives to catholicism and the effects of the wider church decisions on these small enclaves and outposts of Christianity. The priests who go out to evangelise are painted in a good light, whilst the Roman Catholic church is portrayed as an inflexible, monolithic lumbering organisation with an uncaring leadership. The film involves an ex slave runner who becomes a priest only to suffer an agonising test of his new found faith. Jeremy Irons plays the priest who goes out amongst the tribes and he is very convincing in that role. One of his best. He is a true man of god and lives and dies true to his faith. Robert De Niro, perhaps slightly miscast if I am absolutely honest, plays the ex slave runner priest.
The film is quite ravishingly shot and just as ravishing is the score by Ennio Morricone. Haunting and beautiful. One of the truly great movie scores. The opening scene shows a priest tied to a cross and pushed out into a river by natives. He is then seen plummetting to his death over a vast waterfall. It sets the scene. Many early emmissaries of the church were martyred when making that first risky contact with new tribes. We watch as the Jeremy Irons character slowly builds the confidence of his new flock. He is a man who lives for others and not himself. A selfless man with the purest of motives. There is a hard hitting scene where a native child sings quite beautifully for gathered Roman Catholic leaders and local VIPs only to be compared with a well trained animal. The tradgedy of the final clash between two cultures slowly unfolds to a truly heart rending finale. My sympathies were with innocent native peoples and those genuine christian people who truly put ther lives on the line for no personal gain, and truly had the interests of the people at heart.
I found the film a very moving experience which is extremely unusual for me these days. I am now long past the point of hiding behind the sofa when the Red Indians turned up. But seriously this is a lovely film and well worth watching. I thoroughly reccommend having this one in your collection.
on 9 December 2005
I read Robert Bolt's deeply moving novel, 'The Mission', before watching the film, and was therefore anxious to see how it would be treated on screen. As it happens, Bolt wrote the screenplay, and appears to have worked closely with the director, Rolland Joffe ('The Killing Fields'). The result is masterly, and everything I could have hoped for!
The story, based on true events, depicts the tragedy of a South American tribe at the hands of Church, State and European entrepreneurs over 200 years ago. Bolt and Joffe offer no easy answers to questions of faith, politics and morality, in this painfully modern tale. When is it right to kill for what you believe in? Who should command my loyalties - my country, my family, or my God? Can we ever know what is right or wrong?
The photography is outstanding, the acting courageous and beautifully judged, (including a magnificently restrained Robert de Niro as a reformed slave-trader turned Jesuit), and the story utterly compelling. You will truly care about the lives you witness.
The extra features are worth buying alone! The second disc is a documentary on the making of the film, but more riveting is the director's commentary on disc 1. He explains clearly and passionately the many layers to the making of 'The Mission'. Above all, he explores the extraordinary way in which he employed a genuine South American tribe, who had never seen white people before, let alone a film. As Roffe was unable to direct these indians in the way he would more conventional actors, the indians' performances are more or less their real responses to the scenes Roffe sets up. He handed over a great many decisions to them, and allowed them to choose and act according to their culture and feelings.
A particularly touching aspect is the bond that developed between de Niro and an eleven-year old boy, (and natural actor), to the point that the boy begged to live with de Niro in New York!
I know of no other film like it, and would wish everyone to see it.
One of a trio of big-budget films that was intended to turn Goldcrest into a major producer after a run of successful (mostly) low-budget films but which instead all but destroyed the company, The Mission isn't as irredeemably disastrous as Revolution or as over-reaching as Absolute Beginners, but it's still a disappointment despite its many admirable qualities. Screenwriter Robert Bolt has an interesting, if obscure story to tell in the violent closure of the 18th Century Jesuit missions in Paraguay as part of a territorial wrangle between Spain and Portugal, with the Vatican going along with genocide to avoid political repercussions in Europe while the priests in the missions try to protect their native Guarani converts from the slave traders simply waiting for the Church to withdraw its protection. Robert Bolt's screenplay is strong, thanks to Chris Menges' cinematography the film looks superb and Ennio Morricone's score is one of his best. Yet the film feels as if something is missing, possibly because it is: the work-in-progress version that won the Palme D'Or at Cannes was reputedly nearly twice as long. What's left tells the story and makes its points, but doesn't really touch the heart or carry you along with more than academic interest. But perhaps worst of all, there's a gaping hole where the heart of The Mission should be in the form of Robert De Niro.
He looks the part, learnt fencing, speaks Spanish, yet for all that it's a hollow shell of a performance hiding behind underplayed surface detail. On paper his character is easily the film's most interesting, going from slave-trader to Jesuit missionary only to find himself at odds with his vows when he needs to protect those he used to prey on with force, but De Niro brings nothing to the part in a passive, detached and unemotional performance. His crisis of conscience and road to possible redemption seems no more torturous that trying to decide what to order from a disappointing restaurant menu. Very much a supporting role, if it weren't for his reputation you'd have no idea he's supposed to be the great actor of his generation.
By contrast, Jeremy Irons, often a stuffy and mechanical performer, is something of a revelation here, taking the part to heart and abandoning all artifice to give a performance that draws its strength from its genuine humility and humanity. But the film's best performance comes from Ray McAnally as the Papal representative sent ostensibly to judge the matter but in reality to provide a fig leaf for the Church abandoning its converts only to find himself all too aware of the immorality of his actions and tormented by his inability to rebel against them. It's a subtle portrait but a powerful one, and puts a genuinely human face on the film's clash between the ideals of faith and the realities of the way of the world. In many ways it's almost a pity that the film keeps him on the sidelines. (Incidentally, one of the actors playing one of the Jesuit missionaries, Daniel Berrigan, was himself a Jesuit missionary who had been threatened with excommunication, while the Portuguese villain of the piece is played by De Niro's real estate broker!)
The 2-disc DVD comes with an audio commentary by Joffe, the original trailer and an excellent one hour Omnibus documentary about the making of the film from the days when they weren't studio-sanctioned love-ins. Concentrating on the impact on the Wawnana extras, much emphasis is placed on the possibly devastating cultural effects their involvement could have, only to be somewhat torpedoed by the telling detail at the end of the program that the entire tribe received only £85,000 for a month-and-a-half's work - apparently rather less than the fencing instructor De Niro insisted be flown in to the location to teach him got (De Niro fences for a grand total of 30 seconds in the film). The single disc version only offers the commentary and the trailer.
on 23 January 2004
The Mission was one of the first videos I ever bought and will forever be one the most intense, passionate and moving films I have ever seen. The sheer beauty of the film fills you with empathy and compassion for a story that is over 300 years old. Many a lesson both political and personal could be learnt from this epic film.
A beautiful portrayal of barbaric events with a soundtrack so bittersweet it's almost unbearable.
Everyone should see this film!
on 19 May 2005
I found this film amazing - I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered it but I now regard this as one of the best films I have ever seen. The humanity of all the characters makes you feel like you are there with them. Jeremy Irons character was wonderful in sheer contrast to that of Robert DeNiro. It also shows Liam Neeson at the start of his career.
Its hard to believe this film was made some time ago - the special effects are amazing and realistic. Definitely worth seeing.
on 19 September 2003
No other word to describe it. There aren't enough ways to explain the power of this film. Just the opening sequence merits praise. Great acting, great story, great cast, great setting. Took them long enough to release it, but now it's here - BUY THIS DVD!
on 30 October 2001
The Mission from its epic beginnings is a masterpiece from start to finish. Robert De Niro and Jeremy both give firm performances. The story set in South America with the battle between those who follow God and those who follow the sword. It is a rollercoaster ride of drama with a tragic ending to break the strongest of people. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is legendary and adds to the films grandeur. All in all a wonderful story which everyone should watch.
on 4 June 2003
After a long wait this wonderful movie has made its debut on DVD, and it is without doubt worth the wait. The soundtrack would be enough to make you buy this film alone, but when you add the visual feast of the South American jungle, and the brooding presence of De Niro you have a truely moving film.
I have been a great fan of this film since I first saw it in '87. Buy it, be moved by it, truely a special film
on 27 June 2015
Purchased this after watching the holiday , if you watch the scene in the video rental store, Jack Black picks out several movies one of which is The Mission , he comments that the film comes from a completely different place , and he is very right in what he says .
The film is quite stunning , be prepared to be moved emotionally by this extraordinary film .about a man of the sword as played by Robert De Niro who I have to say gives an outstanding performance, and a man of the cloth Jeremy Irons , who unite to protect south American Indians .from brutal subjugation by 18th century empires. Jeremy Irons performance is exquisite .. the location is stunning and the musical score by Ennio Morricone is simply stunning beautiful and haunting .
If you watch the film the Holiday you will hear a snippet of Morricone's work, so you will understand when I say it is a truly beautiful soundtrack ! I purchased it on cd, but in all honesty as nice as it is to listen to on cd , it is way better whilst watching the film as you can truly feel the music more as you watch the film itself .
The music goes hand in hand with the film and the music is right at the very heart of this film , as you will understand when you watch it ...
This film is a true masterpiece, like nothing I have ever seen before really does come from quite a different place, I don't think I have ever seen any movie quite like this one beautiful stunning moving acting by the lead characters truly amazing but very emotive , very moving sweepingly beautiful .