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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Mission



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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted December 22 2010 - 07:35 PM

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The Mission
Release Date: Available now
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
Year: 1986
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2:05:00
MSRP: $24.98

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 High definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1 Spanish 5.1 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Same

The Feature: 4.5/5

The Jesuit missions of 18th-century South America have become the sanctuary and refuge of the Guarani, an indigenous people often victimized by Spanish and Portuguese colonists looking for slaves. Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) has been instrumental in the formation of the newest of the mission-sanctuaries, located deep in the jungle above the Iguazu Falls. Yet even in such a remote location the Guarani remain vulnerable to slavers and mercenaries, the most ruthless of them being Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert DeNiro). The violence he inflicts on others gives him no pause, but eventually he is forced to confront the blackness in his soul when he kills his brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn) in a jealous rage. At first content to waste away in isolation and grief, he ultimately takes up a challenge to seek true penance for his sins, choosing a Sisyphean task of dragging his weapons and armor up the falls to the Guarani mission. Placed face-to-face with the people he's victimized, he will either be forgiven by them or die at their hands.

Meanwhile, political agreements between Spain and Portugal begin to redistribute the territories where the Jesuit missions are located. With those areas now falling into the hands of the Portuguese, it threatens the Jesuits, the Guarani and the community they have built. Though men like Mendoza can physically harm the Guarani, the indifference of kingdoms and institutions may inflict the greatest damage of all by destroying their way of life.

With the Treaty of Madrid and the resulting Gaurani War as part of its backdrop, it might be tempting to dismiss Roland Joffé's "The Mission" as yet another "going native" cinematic trope in the vein of "Dances with Wolves" and "Avatar." Though sharing some of the broader story arcs of those films, it doesn't fall in with them chiefly because Mendoza's redemptive journey doesn't actually involve becoming one of the indigenous people. He remains decidedly an outsider - whose allegiance belongs to the Jesuit order - though his beliefs are the source of his love and vehement defense of the people he once victimized. There's also not the sense that he (or any of the other Jesuits for that matter) will be the Guarani's savior; they're just as subject to the dispassionate whims of institutions as the rest of them. Ultimately it makes for a somewhat bleak film, but one that feels true and is emotionally satisfying, despite its obvious dramatizations. With moving performances by DeNiro and Irons and a phenomenal score by Ennio Morricone, "The Mission" is probably too dark for viewing during the holidays, but you certainly can't deny that its message - centered around faith, hope and love - more than fits the season.

"The Mission" Blu-ray was an Amazon Exclusive back in October. The title was released wide on December 7th.


Video Quality: 3.5/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. The image is subject to some haziness in wide shots and some obvious haloing along high contrast edges. In some cases the former may be inherent to the source, but the haloing definitely seems like the product of digital sharpening schemes, having that telltale edgy quality. Contrast can be inconsistent, struggling more in the darker scenes, which also fail to have the deepest of blacks. Such issues are relatively infrequent, however - black level and color often looking quite strong and overall contrast showing the full range of values with no signs of compression. Overall sharpness is very good, with only a few apparent source-related focusing errors. Grain structure is also visible with no indications of overused noise reduction tools. 

Audio Quality: 4/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is surprisingly strong given the age of the film. LFE is deep and robust, higher frequencies have great detail, and effects and multichannel support for the score are nicely balanced. There's not much in the way of directional effects - when there are any they take place across the front sound stage - and dialogue is a bit low in spots, but overall the audio presentation was a pleasant surprise.


Special Features: 2.5/5
Though the extras only consist of two items, each is quite thorough. Contrary to what's stated on the packaging, no theatrical trailer has been included on the release.


Audio Commentary with Director Roland Joffé: Joffé provides a thoughtful and articulate track, covering some of the technical and logistical elements of the production, but focusing more on the film's thematic and philosophical ideas. Some of the information is covered in the documentary piece, but he provides more detail on things like location scouting and working with the Waunana - the indigenous people cast to portray the Gaurani.


Omnibus: The Making of the Mission (57:17, SD): Well made and revealing BBC documentary chronicles the South American production experience, looking specifically at how filmmakers strove to work with the Waunana without compromising their culture or society. The piece includes a rather candid moment when a disagreement about the work contract almost puts a halt to the the project.


Recap
The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

Warner Home Video turns in a decent audio and video presentation of Roland Joffé's moving period piece about a Jesuit mission - and one man's redemptive journey - in 18th-century South America. There are only two items in the special features (and the theatrical trailer is strangely missing), but they provide plentiful background information about the production. The technical quality doesn't demand that owners of the DVD make the upgrade to high definition, but the right price point will certainly make that easier. For first time purchasers the Blu-ray is an obvious choice, especially since it is currently priced about the same as the DVD.







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