The Mission (1986) Review

Director: Roland Joffé

Genre(s): Adventure, Drama, War

Runtime: 125 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

The Mission is a sweeping, yet somewhat problematic, historical epic that just might be too big for its britches. Set in mid-1700s South America, a group of Jesuit missionaries, including former slave-trader Mendoza (Robert De Niro), dedicate themselves to protecting a remote jungle mission from encroaching Europeans who wish to enslave or massacre the natives. It’s not the most satisfying drama I’ve ever seen, but it has an interesting story that carries the movie.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of The Mission is its wonderful Ennio Morricone musical score, which is one of the finest ever for an adventure/historical film. It’s not an action picture, but there is a somewhat lengthy battle sequence towards the end to spice things up. In his review of this piece of cinema, critic Roger Ebert describes the combat as “badly choreographed.” I don’t really agree, but it’s hardly the best action scene I’ve ever witnessed.

The Mission will probably appeal most to audience members who were largely unaware of the atrocities that accompanied European colonization of the New World. For them, it will be an eye-opener. The flick does seem a little too concerned with trying to absolve the Church of its role in these brutalities in the Americas. The picture is also a little too slow at times, but it’s not necessarily overlong.

Buoyed by its musical score and one-of-a-kind plot, The Mission goes by with a passing grade. Some viewers really dig this film, but I merely like it. It’s certainly a beautiful-looking and sounding work, but some of the more important elements feel half-baked. The Mission is notable for having an early role for Liam Neeson (as Fielding, one of the missionaries).

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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