The Mission (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Mission (1986)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

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
Rating: PG (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Art House & International, Drama
Directed By: ,
Written By: Robert Bolt
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 13, 2003
Warner Home Video


Jeremy Irons
as Gabriel
Ray McAnally
as Altamirano
Liam Neeson
as Fielding
Cherie Lunghi
as Carlotta
Bercelio Moya
as Indian Boy
Sigifredo Ismare
as Witch Doctor
Asuncion Ontiveros
as Indian chief
Alejandrino Moya
as Chief's Lieutenant
Rolf Gray
as Young Jesuit
Tony Lawn
as Fr. Provincial
Joe Daly
as Nobleman
Carlos Duplat
as Portuguese Commander
Rafael Camerano
as Spanish commander
Maria Teresa Ripoll
as Carlotta's Maid
Chuck Low
as Cabeza
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Mission

Critic Reviews for The Mission

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (7)

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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

The Mission manages to be both magnificent and curiously uninvolving, a buddy movie played in soutanes.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A singularly lumpy sort of movie.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

"The Mission" is everything a movie should be -- magnificently produced, epic in scope, serious in theme -- everything, that is, but good.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

"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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 30, 2009
Top Critic

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.

Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

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.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The Mission Quotes

– Submitted by Chad E (4 years ago)

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