126 minutes

Dir: Roland Joffé

Producer: Fernando Ghia, David Puttnam

 Cinematography: Chris Menges

Quite often you can tell a lot by the opening scene in any movie. A terrible opening scene… means generally a terrible movie. In the opening scene to ‘The Mission’ you are treated to perhaps one of the most breathtaking visual metaphors created in any film. To explain it would be to spoil a massive part of the film. As a tip, don’t look at some of the film posters who reveal the intro scene. You rob yourself of an open mouth and a ‘WTF?’ (in a good way) if you do.

The Mission (1986) is a captivatingly laconic story based on true events, The Treaty of Madrid. It’s a story of Jesuit missionaries on Spanish land who are slowly being pushed into Portuguese rule. This is so the Native Americans from the missions can be bonded into slavery.

instant profanity The Mission 1

It’s a film that works not only as a piece of historical storytelling but it also knows its craft. The cinematography by Chris Menges is astounding (it won the Oscar for best cinematography), the soundtrack is quite often cited as one of Ennio Morricone’s best. This is from the man who wrote scores for all Sergio Leone’s films. And the screenplay is Robert Bolt’s swansong. The guy who wrote the screenplay for Lawrence of Arabia.

If this isn’t enough, The Mission (1986) was created by the same team (producer David Puttnam and director Roland Joffé) who brought us The Killing Fields (1984).

It’s one of those rare films where the Grade A craft doesn’t fight the narrative. Beneath all this crafting ‘The Mission’ shows how different characters deal with impending destruction in their own different ways. It’s a story that is as magnificent and grand as Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982) about man’s determination. In Fitzcarraldo’s case it’s the weather’s elements. In ‘The Mission’ it’s the political machinations at play.

What’s great about The Mission is it convincingly portrays a time and event in history in astonishing detail. You feel there. You feel part of it. The native Americans were from local tribes and spoke no or little English. Their cries and call to the Gods were real onset. You feel like they built the church too. It feels real. It feels like you are with them for the ride.

The Mission is a truly special film that rightly won the Palme d’Or.

instant profanity the mission 2

Tips to enjoy The Mission (1986)

-Like this? you might also love Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1973)

– Interesting history?  Well read about it, The Treaty of Madrid in 1750 did exist and effectively transferred land from the Spanish territories (including the semi-autonomous Jesuit Missions)  to the Portuguese. It also takes plot and historical elements from The first Guarani war as well.

 – In love with the screenplay? Robert Bolt, who wrote the screenplay, is a two time Oscar winning screenwriter. His canon includes screenplays for Ryan’s Daughter, A Man For All Seasons & Lawrence of Arabia. Check out his other films and see how he uses political upheavals and/or conflicts with the land as a backdrop to reflect against the motivations of the characters.

instant profanity the mission 3

Can’t find it / buy it?

You can watch it here for free here.

Or you can buy the DVD here.

Wikipedia entry

IMDB entry

IMDB Trivia page

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