DVD Review HTF REVIEW: "The Mission" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 29, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The Mission

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1986
    Rated: PG
    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
    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.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    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
    musical instruments.


    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
    underlying bass.

    Special Features


    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
    theatrical trailer

    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!

    Final Thoughts


    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
    years ago.

    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
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Great review Ron, can't wait for my copy to arrive.

  3. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    great review Ron, as I almost forgot about this coming out.

    Looks like another winner from Warner

  4. Mark_vdH

    Mark_vdH Screenwriter

    May 9, 2001
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    Never seen this one, I guess this will be the right time to check it out...
  5. Jon Sheedy

    Jon Sheedy Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 30, 1997
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    Great review Ron....glad to hear that you enjoyed THE MISSION so much! I've been looking forward to this title, and I'm very happy to hear ya report that Warner's has done a good job on the DVD.

    Fans of great cinematography should order immediately, as should fans of Ennio Morricone.

    I must admit however that, as much as I love THE MISSION, I sometimes have a bit of trouble with Bobby D. in this film. As I watch the film, I must make a concious effort to accept DeNiro as Rodrigo...frequent slips occur though, and I see DeNiro PLAYING Rodrigo.

  6. Joshua_Y

    Joshua_Y Screenwriter

    Dec 19, 2002
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    Oh yeah...cant wait to pick this one up...havent seen it in ages...
  7. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

    Sep 13, 1999
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    the score makes the movie, and has been a CD staple for many.

    Ennio's best!

    bring it on!
  8. Jim Rankin

    Jim Rankin Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 31, 1999
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    Excellent review Ron, not to give away my age but I saw this in a military theater the year of it's release in 1986, and it has always remained one of my favorite historical epics. I felt the jobs done by Irons and DeNiro were top notch, and there are several reasons to want to own this set.
  9. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

    Jun 19, 2001
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    An exceptional film, often forgotten of late. Thank you for an excellent review, Ron! Can't wait to get this! The extras sound terrific.
  10. James Edward

    James Edward Supporting Actor

    May 1, 2000
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    This has been one of my 'wish that was out on DVD' films. I'm there on May 13... To hear it was done so well is fabulous news.
  11. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

    Apr 25, 2002
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  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Let me first take this opportunity to give you
    a well overdue welcome to this forum. I have seen
    your replies within my review threads on many an
    occasion and I have just been far too busy to reply
    to some of the comments you have made.

    I am particularly fond of the fact that you read
    what I write, but at the same time a bit paranoid
    for the fact that I write these reviews purely as
    an uneducated amateur, while you represent someone
    who has made reviewing a professional career.

    I hope you will be tolerant of what I do here. [​IMG]

    I had completely overlooked the fact that The
    was nominated for a BEST PICTURE Oscar
    in 1986. My comments were certainly directed towards
    the viewing public that most likely overlooked this
    gem in favor of more popular films that were out at
    the same time.

    Thanks again, Randy, for being part of this forum.
    Please feel free to continue to politely pull at
    my shirt tails whenever I may make a factual error
    in my review.

  13. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

    Apr 25, 2002
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  14. MichaelW

    MichaelW Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 1, 2000
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    Ron, I don't think you have any reason to apologize. I think the film is clearly overlooked now. Just because a critic remembers it from '86, doesn't mean that anyone else does. I constantly list this film as one of my favorites of all time and my friends look at me with glassy eyes because they have never heard of it.

    If it wasn't at least somewhat overlooked, why else would it have taken so long for this masterpiece of a movie to come out on DVD?

    You shouldn't sell yourself short on what you do. I certainly mean no offense to Randy (who might very well be great at reviewing DVD's), but there are "plenty" of film critics who have absolutely no idea how to review DVD's for home theater buffs and still have no idea what a good picture on a DVD looks like. My guess is that just as many, if not more people are reading your reviews as read those in major newspapers. Your (uneducated [​IMG] ) reviews offer something different and that is why they are good.

    Anyway, regardless, this movie is truly a great one on many levels and if there are people out there who haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to take a look. I'm glad to hear the transfer was good as this is a film that clearly deserves good treatment.
  15. Robert_eb

    Robert_eb Supporting Actor

    Sep 14, 2001
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    Great review Ron. I've been looking forward to this title to come out on dvd and it appeared that Warner's has done an excellent job. I figured this would be a single disc release since the film never screamed at the box office but I'm quite pleased with Warner's decsion for taking the time to do give this beautifully tragic film the justice that it deserves. Now, what about the omission of an dts soundtrack...[​IMG]
  16. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

    Feb 27, 2001
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    The Island, Canada
    Real Name:
    Rich Travale
    Great review Ron. I have to say that I have loved this movie since the first time I saw it.
    The scene where Gabriel first sees the waterfall with the trumpets playing was absolutely majestic.
  17. Matt_P

    Matt_P Second Unit

    Sep 19, 2000
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    Thanks for the review, Ron.

    Can't wait for this one! Too bad there isn't an isolated score of Ennio's best work, but the rest looks superb.
  18. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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    First of all: I'm all over this one. Street Date Purchase all the way.

    Second, regarding Ron and Randy's comments, I think that both are right in this instance. Sure The Mission was critically hailed and known at the time, but mostly by critics and "Industry" people. Certainly in the "general public's" consciousness this film, I do agree with Ron, was overlooked. Whenever I mention this film to my friends, I generally get blank stares. When I mention De Niro is in it, even some "die-hard De Niro fans" give me an odd look, like I'm putting them on.

    Although nominated for quite a few Oscars, it is an unfortunate tendency in our society that we mostly remember the Winners. The Shawshank Redemption probably being the exception to that rule in recent history (there are others in the past I'm sure, but I'm not enough of a historian to rattle them off). Bottom line is that most people can name the Best Picture Winners but not the four other films nominated in that year.
  19. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Feb 24, 1999
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    When the DVD format was first brought into existence and I saw the glory of 16x9 video on my 16x9 Proscan TV...This was one of the first films about which I said to myself "I can't wait to replace my LD copy with the DVD version of the this when it finally comes out!"

    I've waited a long time and I'll be priviledge to revisit this wonderful film in 16x9 glory!!!

    dave [​IMG]
  20. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Feb 24, 1999
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    Oh...I should add that everyone who doesn't already have it should rush out and buy the soundtrack on CD TODAY!

    Amazing soundtrack...one of the best...

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