Saturday, March 10, 2007

THE MISSION (The Ladd Company 1986) Warner Home Video

Roland Joffe’s The Mission (1986) is a viscerally tragic, yet spiritually uplifting epic. Charting the rise and fall of attempts at colonization by the Portuguese over the Brazilian tribes living deep within the rain forests, the film’s back story concerns one Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert DeNiro), an embittered slave trader and butcher of the native peoples who, upon murdering his own brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn) is forced to flee into the woods to escape prosecution and execution for his crimes.

Determined to kill anyone who stands in his way, Rodrigo is trapped by the elements and nearly dies alone in the lost and obscure recesses of the rain forest. He is rescued from certain death at the hands of the natives – who recall too well his brutalization of their people - and by Jesuit priest, Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) who has taken to task the establishment of a Christian mission high in the mountains. At first, Mendoza pleads for death. He cannot reconcile his own past with his current circumstances.

However, gradually Mendoza’s heart is softened and humbled by his overwhelming acceptance from the people he once regarded as animals fit only for the slaughter or bondage in slavery. Rodrigo accepts the vows of the church and embraces Father Gabriel’s goal to build the mission.

Written by veteran screen scenarist, Robert Bolt, the saga unfolds in slow sustained increments of captivating melodrama, richly textured in the struggle of wills between Mendoza and Father Gabriel – yet even more refined in their eventual mutual understanding of purpose and commitment to the laws no man can set asunder. The Mission is exceptional entertainment, a must see/must own experience that once witnessed can never be forgotten.

Warner Home Video’s 2-disc DVD provides a fairly adequate video presentation; anamorphic widescreen with rich, vibrant colors. Overall, flesh tones are rather orange or pink. Contrast levels are weak, with black levels occasionally dissolving into deep gray. Whites are nearly pristine.

Age related artifacts exist but are not distracting. Digital anomalies include edge enhancement and some pixelization. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. Ennio Morricone’s musical score is the real benefactor here. Dialogue exhibits a manufactured characteristic. Bass tonality is lacking throughout. Extras include a fascination documentary - ‘Omnibus’ which visits the film’s locations. Recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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