There on a Mission from God
Following the horrific death of one missionary, Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons), a Spanish Jesuit, is sent in to the South American wilderness to build a mission and hopefully convert the native Indians of the area to Christianity. On his arrival he initially finds himself locking horns with Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro) a slave hunter who is conflicted by his relationship back home with his brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn) and Carlotta (Cherie Lunghi). Events lead to Rodrigo converting and joining Father Gabriel at the mission. But when the colonies change hands with Spain selling them to Portugal the two must fight together to defend what they have built together.
One of the most telling things about "The Mission" came from a review I once glimpsed which said it is a good starting point for a discussion. I say telling because when I hear the word discussion mentioned alongside a movie I often think that; one this will be a movie with at least an intellectual side and two this is a movie which might not work so well as entertainment for the masses, if you life the popcorn crowd. And having watched "The Mission" three times over the years I believe that for the most to be true as this is a movie for those who want more than just simple visual entertainment from a movie yet at the same time it has something about it which manages to provide something for those who do not want to get their heads around a story.
Now "The Mission" when it comes to the story has many parts with the first third of the movie focusing on Rodrigo as events lead him to join Father Gabriel as he seeks to create a mission. It is a thoroughly powerful conversion as out of penance for something he did Roberto insists on carrying a huge net filled with armour through the jungle, dragging it up cliff faces with a rope heavier than many a man could bear. But as I said there are other parts to the story and we have the unfolding political events when it comes to the ownership and ruling of the colonies. It is this side which at times, with all the heavy dialogue, which might struggle to captivate the audience who don't feel a desire to discuss a movie after watching it.
Whether or not the story to "The Mission" works completely for you or not what will is the combination of look, sound and the actors. Watching a mud coated Robert De Niro, his hair thick with wet dirt, climb up a stunning mountain side whilst you have a piece of haunting music composed by Ennio Morricone is spell binding. And this happens time again where the composure of a scene, the actors commitment to their role and Morricone's magnificent score combine to create something truly beautiful. It is this side of the movie which for those who don't find the story completely stimulating, will keep them watching as it is one beautiful movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Mission" does feature one of those stories which isn't going to work for everyone due to its more intellectual side. But this is one of those movies where look, sounds and the acting come together to create something which is special, memorable and captivating.