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A man of the sword and a man of the cloth unite to shield a South American tribe from brutal subjugation by 18th century colonial empires.
For more about The Mission and the The Mission Blu-ray release, see the The Mission Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 8, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Chuck Low, Cherie Lunghi
Director: Roland Joffe
» See full cast & crew
The Mission Blu-ray Review
One of the 1980s best earns a solid Blu-ray release from Warner Brothers.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 8, 2010
Little in this world unfolds as we predict.
What makes The Mission such a gorgeous film on several levels is the way it weaves so many rich and compelling subtexts into a story that's as superficially simple as they come. At its most basic, Director Roland Joffé's (The Killing Fields) film tells the story of a Jesuit missionary and a converted salve trader and mercenary who join forces to stop European powers from enslaving and murdering South American natives in the 1750s. Through that simple story comes a host of layered and complex themes that will challenge every viewer on several levels; the picture looks not only at the role of the church and the powers of the state to exceed or override religious institutions in the affairs of peoples hailing from foreign lands but also the ideas of self-preservation, self-determination, revenge, love, hate, understanding, repentance, and the bonds of family that can be formed not only within a closed communal setting but between peoples of vastly different backgrounds when they meet in peace, good faith, and mutual respect. The Mission is at once soulfully touching but visually exciting; thematically smart but casually entertaining; and beautifully filmed but at times repulsively ugly. Nominated for several Oscars -- including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score -- and winning for its incredible cinematography, The Mission is a timeless picture with themes that resonate even today, almost three centuries following the heartbreaking true events depicted in the film.
Based on a true story that occurred around the borderlands of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil in the 1750s, The Mission tells the tale of a Jesuit missionary, Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons), who risks his life to bring the Word of God to the native Guaraní peoples of South America. Though a fellow missionary is killed by the Guaraní, Gabriel finds favor with the tribe through the enchantment of his Oboe and personable demeanor. His mission quickly bears fruit as several members of the tribe convert to Christianity. On a temporary respite from his mission to the Guaraní, Gabriel learns of the tragic story of a salve trader named Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro) who has been imprisoned for the murder of his brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn) after learning that his wife Carlotta (Cherie Lunghi) had fallen in love with him. Gabriel secures Mendoza's release on the promise that he'll repent for his sins by undertaking a grueling physical challenge that will test both his body and spirit. Mendoza suffers for his crime as he returns with Gabriel to the site of the Guaraní mission where he ultimately becomes a Jesuit and befriends the native peoples he once enslaved and sold. Meanwhile, a showdown between church and state looms as elements of the European imperialist movement aim to take control of the land and its peoples by closing down the local missions, a move that's not well-received by either Gabriel or Mendoza and with the potential to bring about a tragic end to the community that Gabriel, Mendoza, and others have worked so diligently and through their faith to create.
The Mission is one of the more elegant and beautifully-photographed pictures of the past several decades. Though it lacks the sheer scope of some of cinema's most sweeping epic productions, its visual artistry is refined to the point that the audience is seamlessly transported to the sweaty South American jungles. Better still, the picture's subtle approach and lack of stylistic flair only seem to reinforce the film's layered themes by allowing them -- rather than sheer visual bliss -- to dominate the picture. It's an amazing accomplishment of filmmaking to have a story this powerful and a setting so gorgeous both captured to a level that truly represents what quality, meaningful cinema is all about. This is a rare picture that finds strength in its subdued styling, and because of its pinpoint refinement in all areas, the picture rises above the rest as one of the more meaningful and soulfully-stirring in recent memory both for its tough but touching story and its technical know-how that engenders a seamless sense of realism within the movie. The Mission also works through a script that's not dominated by needless dialogue; much of the film's more important themes and story arcs are conveyed through minimal-to-no dialogue, instead built around Chris Menges' (The Reader) Oscar-winning cinematography and Ennio Morricone's (The Untouchables) soulful Oscar-nominated score, punctuated by two magnificent performances from De Niro and Irons in what could easily be seen as among their very finest efforts. Even the picture's violent end is met with something of a more hushed tone compared to other, similar sequences seen in general cinema, engendering something of a surreal sensation that highlights the true sense of horror, loss, and despair that might not be found in a more traditionally-structured and detached action scene.
The picture is a remarkable technical achievement, and it supports a multi-layered and infinitely moving story that's worthy of the impeccable craftsmanship that frames it. The film centers on issues that seem as relevant today as they were both in the 1750s and mid-1980s when The Mission was released. It's built on themes that allow for an intimate analysis of the human condition as seen through both one man's search for peace and harmony between peoples of radically different cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs, and another's quest for remorse, repentance, and ultimately, justice as he comes to find purpose in his life through the pains of the heart, the sin of wrath, and the trials of the body. The Mission builds its story on the idea that all men are created equal -- even if some may find that to be inconvenient to their own selfish ends -- even if they differ in almost every superficial way imaginable. This is a story that emphasizes the bonds of humanity-at-large as seen through the innate qualities of man rather than the fellowship defined strictly by community, race, ethnicity, or social or political background. One of the film's most critical moments comes from Mendoza's reading of the famous 1 Corinthians 13 scripture that says, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." It defines the character's turning point and thematically cements his actions in the film's final act as he discovers the meaning of Christian love and brotherhood in the face of heartless and self-centered powers who claim acceptance, charity, and love, but see in them only means of self promotion and personal advancement. The Mission constructs its narrative around one of the most personal and heartfelt stories ever told; combined with its technical achievements, it's one of cinema's finest films.
The Mission Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Mission's 1080p Blu-ray transfer won't dazzle viewers, but it's a good image in its own right. It's certainly a bit flat with some blurry edges and a few soft shots, but details are generally adequate-to-strong, whether those seen in the textured wet rocks around a waterfall or the materials of various garments. Distant vistas capture vegetation that looks clumpy and indistinct, but closer shots reveal more definition and detailing in individual leaves. Colors are somewhat muted, with greens, browns, and other earthen tones dominating most of the movie. Unsightly artifacts or digital enhancement are not readily apparent. Blacks as seen in a few nighttime scenes are steady, and flesh tones rarely feature a red push. The Mission also retains a fair bit of grain and features what is certainly a bit rough and soft but otherwise film-like texture. This is the sort of transfer that's better judged on its own merits than comparatively against newer, brighter, and crisper transfers. The Mission by its nature isn't a film that's been built to dazzle the senses, but Warner Brothers' 1080p transfer seems nicely representative of what the film has to offer in its admittedly limited visual scope.
The Mission Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Mission debuts on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that, much like the video transfer, is fine on its own merits but lacking if judged against the top-tier Blu-ray presentations. The track's most potent element comes from the raging waters around a waterfall that's seen and heard several times throughout the film. It's certainly loud but not always as seamless and smooth as one might expect, but then again, what is a powerful waterfall if not simply a wall of crunching, heavy, and mostly indistinct sound? Bass seems a bit sloppy in such scenes, but again, a raging waterfall seems like something that even in real life wouldn't be made of anything beyond a simple and, yes, audibly sloppy cacophony of sound. Jungle atmospherics and various sound effects are handled primarily across the front; the back channels never really come into play to any great degree throughout the movie. Fortunately, Warner's track handles Ennio Morricone's superb score exceptionally well; it's crisp and spacious and benefits a great deal from the lossless presentation. Action sound effects heard primarily during the final act neither impress nor disappoint; the action falls a bit flat from a sonic perspective, but that seems more the film's intention rather than a fault of the track itself. Finally, dialogue is clean and precise. The Mission's soundtrack doesn't seem built to dazzle listeners, but fans should find what's here to be pleasing and a fine compliment to the film.
The Mission Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Mission features but two supplements; fortunately, both are excellent. First is an audio commentary track with Director Roland Joffé who delivers exceptionally smart insight into not just the generalities that define the making of the picture, but also its story, characters, score, themes, relevancy, historical parallels between what the film depicts and modern events, his experiences of working with native tribes, and plenty more. Far superior to more generic commentaries, Joffé's is instead a track that's history lesson, engaging story, and behind-the-scenes insight all in one. This is a must-listen track. Also included is Omnibus: The Making of 'The Mission' (480p, 57:17), a vintage documentary that chronicles the making of the movie. It looks at the process of casting real Indians in the film and their importance in adding authenticity to the story, their performances and involvement in the intricacies of the filmmaking process, Native culture today in South America, the history of Jesuit missions, the film's set construction, action scene construction, the picture's story and themes, the presence of the modern-day Colombian Army on the set and the resultant parallels to the film, and much more. As with the commentary, this is a strong supplement that's a must-watch.
The Mission Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Mission emphasizes feeling and purpose rather than excess dialogue and visual panache, all of which highlights the story's narrative and allows for a meaningful and emotionally challenging experience. That doesn't mean that The Mission is a dull picture; quite the contrary, if the poignant story's not enough to move the soul, then the beautiful cinematography and stirring score are sure to do so. There are but a few pictures that are as elegant as The Mission in terms of craftsmanship and both quality and purpose of story; it's the complete package and a movie that's required viewing for all connoisseurs of the cinematic medium. Warner Brothers' currently Amazon-exclusive Blu-ray release of The Mission yields a good-in-context technical presentation and two very high quality extras. Enthusiastically recommended.
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The Mission Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Mission Blu-ray in October, Exclusive to Amazon - June 20, 2010
Warner Home Video is set to release the 1986 epic movie The Mission, directed by Roland Joffe and starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, on October 5. According to retailer information, it will be an Amazon exclusive for an undetermined length of time. Disc ...
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