Ireland, 1209. An island on the edge of the world. A small group of monks begin a reluctant pilgrimage across an island torn between centuries of tribal warfare and the growing power of Norman invaders. Escorting their monastery's holiest relic to Rome, the monks' progress is seen through the eyes of a pious young novice and a mute lay-brother with a violent past. As the true material, political and religious significance of the bejeweled relic becomes dangerously apparent, their path to the east coast becomes increasingly fraught with danger. The monks belatedly realize that in this wild land of ancient superstitions, the faith that binds them together may ultimately lead to their destruction.Written by
As far as period pieces set in the middle ages go, this one isn't very glamorous. It's a decently well made film with some strong individual performances that basically carry a mostly disjointed and only slightly nuanced story. My rating for this movie is a fairly weak 7/10. That rating is floated higher than I would have normally given it for three specific reasons.
First, the performances: Holland as the young, pious monk who has never known anything but life in the monastery yet quickly matures when faced with adversity. Bernthal as the obedient and entirely subservient mute with an obviously profound yet mysterious history who becomes the star of the show on more than one occasion without saying a word. Stanley Weber as the Cistercian, the guy the Church sends out to do their dirty work basically and effectively starts the "Pilgrimage" in the first place. Of course, there's also Richard Armitage as the surly French knight commanding his Baron father's equally surly men while throwing surly looks around all the time. This would have been a horribly dull and hard to watch movie if these guys didn't pull off these fairly typical medieval character archetypes well and it feels to me like they did.
Second, the action and set sequences were well done. I tend to be the kind of person who is immediately thrown off by a bad transition or a sequence of shots that just don't really work well together. I didn't see very much of that in this film. Granted, it's not difficult managing scene transition when most every scene is shot outdoors in Ireland but when the action happens, it's brutal and effective.
Third, symbolism. If you are someone who does not like it when a movie expects you to draw your own significance from the story it's trying to tell, this is not a movie you might like. Religion is a central theme in this movie and it is built on a foundation of symbolism that can be taken any number of different ways. If you like diving into the deeper meaning of things, you will actually love this movie. Especially how it ends.
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