The Mission (1986)
Featuring a majestic score by Ennio Morricone and lush Oscar-winning cinematography by Chris Menges, Roland Joffé's The Mission examines the events surrounding the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, when Spain ceded part of South America to Portugal, and turns this episode into an allegory for the mid-'80s struggles of Latin America. Two European forces are on hand to win the South American natives over to imperialist ways. The plunderers want to extract riches and slaves from the New World. The missionaries, on the other hand, want to convert the Indians to Christianity and win over their souls. Mendoza (Robert De Niro) is an exploiter dabbling in the slave trade. But after he kills his brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn) in a fit of rage, he seeks redemption and calls upon the missionaries to assist him. After repeatedly climbing a cliff with a heavy weight as penance, Mendoza finds redemption and becomes a devout missionary at a settlement run by Gabriel (Jeremy Irons). The missionaries want to promote a new society in which the natives will live together in peace with the Spanish and the Portuguese. But this concept frightens the royal governors, who would rather enslave the natives than encourage peaceful coexistence between the Europeans and the Indians. They order the mission to be burned to the ground. But this event causes a rift between Gabriel, who wants to pray and pursue peaceful resistance, and Mendoza, who wants to take up arms and fight the Europeans. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Mission
The two principal actors, Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, work hard to animate their parts. But there is little to do. The Mission is probably the first film in which De Niro gives a bland, uninteresting performance.
The Mission manages to be both magnificent and curiously uninvolving, a buddy movie played in soutanes.
"The Mission" is everything a movie should be -- magnificently produced, epic in scope, serious in theme -- everything, that is, but good.
"The Mission" effectively dramatizes yet another chapter in the ruthless European conquest of the Americas. It'll make you hate the whole of western civilization with every fiber of your being.
...a little too pious for its own good. Be that as it may, the movie's heart is in the right place.
Joffe's pseudo-epic about slave trading and missionaries in South America is attractive to look at but distorted and anachronistic.
A near-masterpiece. De Niro is excellent.
Atmospheric, fascinating drama set in deep jungle with strong De Niro and Irons.
Simultaneously slick and sloppy....For all of The Mission's back-to-nature trappings, it's actually a perfect film for the Reagan-and-Thatcher era that produced it.
Boring statement about the human condition. DeNiro's a bad guy. Deal with it. And missions are barbaric. Get over it.
The film looks superb from start to finish, the acting is almost universally top notch ... and Morricone's score is a fine accompaniment to Joffé's passionate, heartfelt vision.
Long, ponderous, but De Niro and Irons always are interesting to watch.
Audience Reviews for The Mission
A remarkable and profoundly moving drama about redemption and the transforming power of love; not only visually stunning and boasting a wonderful Ennio Morricone score, but also with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons carrying the film in two sublime performances.More
Moving and beautiful. The Mission, with a great direction and majestic score of the master Morricone, make this film an unforgettable powerful piece of work in seventh art.More
Based on actual events, this film, despite being a little erratic and flawed, is still a pretty good look at a fascinating subject.
The story concerns a group of Jesuits working with the Guarani tribe in South America during the 1750s who get caught up in the socio-political machinations of imperialism of the powers that be back in Europe. The leader of the order (Irons) is a pacifist who unwaveringly believes in love, peace, and the belief that his ways are best. Another, a convert into the order (De Niro) is a reformed sinner trying to right his wrongs. As a former mercenary and slave driver, he feels that violence is justified if it can be used to save what they had been working towards.
The film works best as a big picture study versus a character piece. Besides the socio-political machinations, and the story of the Jesuits within this historical context, the big thmes of the film are of faith, suffering, and the human condition.
There's a lot to really like (if not love) here, but there's also a lot that could have been far better. Ennio Morricone's score and Chris Menges's cinematography are both powerful and absolutely gorgeous. The attention to period detail, historical context, and authenticity of the casting of many Natives are also very strong and inspired.
What's not so good are the way the individual character stories and character development are handled, as well as some of the inauthentic castings for the European characters. Despite some iffy casting choices, the performances are oddly interesting. I wanted some better development with the views of De Niro's and Irons's characters, as weel as some more convicing development of De Niro's character's motivations, but I still kinda dug what they were doing, regardless. It's also kinda neat to see Liam Neeson and Aidan Quinn early on in their respective careers.
As a Catholic (albeit slightly lapsed) myself, and someone who is really close to a histroian who wrote a book on the Jesuits, I should have really, really enjoyed, if not loved this film. I do like the way the Jesuits are handled, and am happy they put it into a historical context. I also liked that the film's conclusion, though a downer, is the way it is, and that it wasn't given the Hollywood treatment. However, I can't feel justified in giving this a higher score based on the issues i've elaborated one.
Do I still like this film and recommend it? Oh yeah. It's some good stuff, even if it is rather odd, and all over the place at times. Perhaps if I watched it some more times I might find my current views in need of changing, but, as it is, this is just a really good film, instead of the great piece of art it could have been.
An ex slave trader seeking penance after murdering his brother in a jealous rage joins a Jesuit mission in the South American jungle , but when the colonial interests of the outside world threaten their peaceful existence he takes up arms once more. It's impossible to put the experience of watching this film into words. It's so stunning to look at I had to double check the release date; I never thought something this beautiful could be made in 1986, the year of Falcon Crest, Top Gun and Slippery When Wet. The locations, the photography and Ennio Morricone's wonderful score come together to create a visual and aural work of art. This combined with typically fine performances from Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons in an intelligent story of the destructive influences of colonialism make this a film that was bound to scoop up a plethora of awards and understandably so. I perhaps didn't get as involved emotionally with the characters as much as the story deserved, but still it's a stunning cinematic experience in all other departments.More
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