Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 125 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
The year 1986 was a great year for film. It was a
year that brought us (among others) Aliens, Blue
Velvet, The Color of Money, The Fly, Platoon, Top
Gun, and Stand by Me. With all these
stellar heavyweights, I can easily how a film like
The Mission got lost in the shuffle. It
certainly wasn't a film I had any interest in
seeing when it was released, but having just
completed watching it for the first time ever, I
am deeply saddened that it took me 17 years to
see this absolutely marvelous film that managed
to touch me so very deeply, I feel as if I have
just witnessed something extremely special.
Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) is a Jesuit priest sent
to South America to convert natives. Venturing
deep into the forest over great waterfalls, he
establishes a mission to convert a native tribe.
The priest teaches the natives how to survive on
a plantation where they harvest bananas and make
Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro) is a Portuguese
mercenary and slave trader. He has just taken
asylum with the local church after killing his
brother (Aidan Quinn) for cheating with his wife.
Mendoza seeks penance by joining the Jesuits in
their life of sacrifice in the jungle highlands.
It is there that Mendoza lives amongst the Indians
he once hunted. In his new environment, he learns
to live and love under the will of God.
Tensions arise upon the arrival of a visiting
Cardinal (Ray McAnally) who is to decide the fate
of the mission. The Spanish and Portuguese empires
are fiercely trying to pressure the Catholic Church
into expelling the natives from their mission
sanctuary to restore their circulation in the slave
trade. When the Jesuits are told to abandon the
natives, they decide to stay put. This forces
Rodrigo to choose between his vows and his sword.
The Mission is based on historical fact,
about the fight between the Catholics and Jesuits
in South America, over slavery around the period
of 1750. Despite the fact that film can be often
painful to watch, it is a deeply arresting visual
experience. Cinematographer Chris Menges never
ceases to provide us with spectacular beauty in
almost every frame of this film. The Mission
ended up winning the Oscar for Best Cinematography,
and it's easy to see why -- the film is a visual
The Mission arrives in a brand new two-disc
special edition. A cardboard slipcover contains a
pull-out that opens to a 3-pane gatefold. Two DVDs
sit in plastic hub housing . The far left pane
contains a complete Scene Index from the film. On
another pane sits the same sort of index listing
for the featurette that resides on Disc Two.
How is the transfer?
As one would expect from Warner Brothers, this is
an outstanding transfer of a catalog title. The
film's earth-toned colors are solid with no
bleeding or smearing. Greens look particularly
vibrant here in their lush forest and plantation
settings. Images are well detailed, which is
important in showcasing Chris Menges' magnificent
cinematography of the South American wilderness.
The only problem I saw within the transfer was
that at different moments in the film, fleshtones
tended to be overly reddish.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is quite
excellent, though there is very little in the way
of directionality across all 5 channels. Audio is
mostly front-heavy, with clear distinct dialogue
in the center channel and satisfying separation of
audio left and right. Though the rears occasionally
provide ambient support (you'll find the waterfall
sequences to be enveloping), there isn't a whole lot
of back activity going on here. The real star of
this mix is the majestic score by Ennio Morricone,
complete with an angelic chorus, that is reproduced
beautifully with outstanding dynamics. Bass is well
handled by the .1 LFE, most effectively during the
shots of the crashing waterfall. In fact, one of
the few times the action becomes entirely enveloping
is during a battle sequence near the end of the
film where a pursuit ends at the edge of the
waterfall. Here you'll find yourself completely
surrounded by the sound of rushing water and booming
Let's begin by talking about the bonus material
available on Disc One....
First up is the full-length commentary by
director Roland Joffé, and I must say, it's
a wonderful treat to listen to this distinguished
Englishman. Joffé begins by giving us a very
honest overview of history and its constant clash
of cultures. Though these disputes are never
pleasant, there's always a human element involved.
It is this human element that became the most
appealing factor in making The Mission.
Right off the bat, Joffé talks about meeting a
tribe of Waunana Indians, who up until that point,
had never seen a white man. These Indians didn't
accept Joffé as a human being since he looked
nothing like them -- so instead, they labeled him
as some sort of "ghost." The director talks fondly
about his cast members, particularly Robert De Niro,
who he feels showed a tender side of himself in
this film that is very true to his real-life persona.
I was shocked to learn that while filming at two
separate falls in both Columbia and Argentina,
De Niro never hesitated to go barefoot amongst
snakes and scorpions, while dragging the net of
armor behind him. It's also interesting to learn
that through method acting, De Niro went through
the same personal attitude changes that his character
did. This initially caused a little bit of a
distancing problem for both cast and crew, but after
a few weeks, the actor, like his character, became
more open to those around him. Throughout this
commentary Joffé has interesting and often humorous
observations about the clash of cultures as well as
the human spirit itself. Very heartwarming!
A cast and crew filmography page is rather
limited, giving us only highlights of an individual's
film career. Two awards pages give us an
idea of the number of honors this film received.
Also included here is the film's original
Let's now take a look at the Disc Two...
This entire second disc is dedicated to a
fascinating 57-minute feature entitled, Omnibus:
The Mission, which takes us on an incredible
journey inside South America where we meet a European
film crew that includes director Roland Joffé who
have come to persuade the Waunana Indians to portray
the film's Guarani tribespeople. What the director
ultimately found was a destroyed community full of
individuals who lacked any sort of self respect.
Without planning to exploit these people, Joffé
approached them and asked if they would like to be
part of his film, rewarding their cooperation
with money that would be distributed amongst the
various communities. It took some time for the
Waunana Indians to gain the trust of these white
people, and soon they found themselves amongst a
large film crew who transported 4 villages by bus
and plane to the movie's film locale. For the rest
of this featurette we watch how these Indians come
to terms with making a film (and believing they
would not get killed in the process). After a
while, the Indians were enjoying the filmmaking
process so much that they began writing their own
lines and practiced them amongst themselves. In
addition to all of this, we learn quite a bit about
the history that surrounds this film and the
political struggles that still exist today in the
Cauca region. Of course, disputes were bound to
arise during the course of filming, and in one
sequence, we watch the cast of Waunanas as they
vocalize their disputes against contract wages.
For fans of The Mission this is simply the
greatest "making of" featurette that anyone could
hope for. Outstanding!
The Mission is a sweeping picture of epic
proportions. This powerful historic drama carries
a very serious message and in the process, ultimately
draws you into its humanity.
Warner Brothers has done an exceptional job with
this film's transfer, and the bonus 57-minute
featurette on the second disc makes this DVD
package a very worthy investment at a $20 price tag.
I am going to HIGHLY RECOMMEND this film in hopes
that people give this title the viewing it deserves.
As I noted previously, I wish I had discovered it
Release Date: May 13, 2003
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality