In 18th century South America Jesuit Father Gabriel (Irons) has come to set up a mission for the Native Guarani Indians. However, other more unscrupulous men like Rodrigo Mendoza (De Niro) are reaping the rewards of the slave trade. Enter Altamirano (Ray McAnally) a man who must decide whether the Jesuit missions will be left in safety or shut down for good. The final decision will pit men against each other as they hold steadfast for their beliefs and the rights of the Guarani.
The Mission is an immense film. It comes from director Roland Joffe who strived to elaborate on the viewer’s experience. The Mission has a documentary feel in its vast ambition of recapturing the lives of the Guarani Indians and Spanish settlers in 18th century South America.
In an inspired move Joffe decided to cast actual South American native peoples in a bid to bring more realism to the story. And as art mirrors reality, this film too had oppressed Native Americans playing the role of their oppressed forefathers adding to the films timeless appeal.
The 1980s ushered in a time when films seemed to have the most realistic quality. In the past film technology and special effects were probably considered too cheesy, and nowadays technology interferes so much that the viewer knows the film isn’t real. But films like The Mission hold a physical quality which allows you to feel as if you are a present in the action.
The subject matter is filmed delicately by Joffe to convey the scope and grandeur of what is being shot. The film takes you through dirty Spanish streets, beautiful Jesuit Missions, and into the luscious heart of the Amazon jungle. The sets and lighting further add texture and beauty to the scenes.
The films score also deserves mentioning as it has been listed by the AFI as the 23rd greatest score ever. And it is quite a good score with deep drenching emotion. It would almost be too sappy if it weren’t for the gravity of the films subject.
In the end one of the best points about this film is that it has a great subjective feel. You are not going to see a film about villains chasing jewels, there is no big heist, and not a single mythical creature. You are going to watch peoples emotions unravel as they travel through harrowing events.