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THE MISSION, 1986
Movie Review

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THE MISSION MOVIE POSTER
THE MISSION, 1986
Movie Reviews

Directed by Roland Joffe
Starring: Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons
Review by Jeremy Richards



SYNOPSIS:

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.

Review

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.

To help lose yourself within the film Joffe hired Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons at the height of their careers to bring their commanding presence forward. But more impressive than the Hollywood stars are their actual feats on camera. We tend to forget that what we see in a movie has to be filmed in real life. This means setting up a camera, setting up lights, and having extras act in the background. All this prep makes filming a scene in an empty street difficult, so to watch Robert De Niro carrying a heavy bundle through the Amazon makes you appreciate the film that much more.

The Guarani natives were unfamiliar with modern technology and in fact didn’t even understand cameras. Obviously they never had any modern acting training like Robert De Niro, but this also means their reactions would be true to themselves. The Mission is the kind of film you have to watch twice. Once to see the story unfold and twice to see the scope what you have just watched.

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.

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