Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The 100 Best Movies: #73

73. The Mission (1986)

This is a very powerful and intense film that once you see it, you never forget it. It explores so many different themes of a religious, political and social nature. Set in the 1750's in Spanish settlements in South America (particularly Brazil), Robert De Niro plays a slave hunter who, after murdering his own brother, is convinced to join a jesuit priest (brilliantly played by Jeremy Irons) in his quest to bring Christianity to the natives that dwell in the jungle. De Niro and Irons work together in building a Mission, getting to know the natives (and by extension themselves) and understanding their ways. When Spain cedes the land to Portugal (the Treaty of Madrid), slave hunters begin to arrive to capture the natives. De Niro and Irons become locked in a moral and philosophical quarrel as to how to respond to this threat against their Mission. De Niro reverts back to his hunter ways and organizes a native rebellion towards the oncoming Portuguese, while Irons' deeply religious ways compel him to keep the peace within the Mission and teach the natives tolerance. Both actors are excellent and their characters give their all to protect what they hold dear (physically and spiritually).

This film was directed by Roland Joffe and produced by David Puttnam, who had collaborated on the critically-acclaimed 1984 film The Killing Fields. Joffe uses his knack for exploring different worlds in this movie and gives you the positive and negative of both lead characters. The supporting cast is also quite excellent including Aidan Quinn (as De Niro's brother) and Liam Neeson (as a young priest working with Irons). The film's story and screenplay was by Robert Bolt, whose previous work included the dominating costumed-epics of the 1960's (Lawrence of Arabia, A Man for All Seasons and Doctor Zhivago). The film also has a hauntingly beautiful score by the legendary composer Ennio Morricone. It is an amazing film that, if you have not seen, do so.

Next Post: #72

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