Opening Friday, Aug. 11, in limited release, “Pilgrimage” follows a group of monks in early 13th-century Ireland, struggling to transport a holy relic to Rome. If you think the Church is the hero of this quest, you may be wrong.
Tom Holland, the newest screen Spider-Man, and Jon Bernthal — the Punisher in Netflix’s Catholic-flavored comic-book drama “Daredevil,” soon to have his own spin-off — play, respectively, a shy young monk and a mute former Crusader. They’re part of the band caught between warring factions on their journey in the company of a relic believed to have mighty powers. The reportedly apparently violent and gory film was shot in Ireland and features English, Gaelic and French dialogue.
As you might expect when the Crusades are brought into any modern movie, the outcome doesn’t appear to be positive.
You don’t need a director’s statement to tell you what “Pilgrimage” thinks of organized religion.
Or one faith in particular.
The film, set in 1209 AD, takes a withering look at the corrupting influence of the Catholic Church during the Crusades.
It’s an arresting portrait, one that falters in the final moments when both formula and raw disgust collide. “Pilgrimage” also has plenty to say about the scourge of Radical Islam, even if it wasn’t the intended target.
The Hollywood Reporter wasn’t impressed, saying:
Director Brendan Muldowney strains hard to create a suitably somber medieval atmosphere, such as so rigorously draining the film of color that one struggles to remember that Ireland is known for being green. The relentlessly monochromatic palette quickly proves wearisome, as does the stilted language, the unsubtle characterizations and the musical score depending heavily on Gregorian chants. (What, you were expecting Coldplay?)
The Los Angeles Times was a bit kinder:
Faith and fear collide in the medieval action film “Pilgrimage.” For all its bloody and violent genre trappings, “Pilgrimage” — directed by Brendan Muldowney and written by Jamie Hannigan — is a gorgeously shot film that carefully renders the details of this fascinating historical period.
Once again, we have a movie with the Catholic Church at its core, made by someone who seems to have decided at the outset that he doesn’t like the Church or the Faith, and thinks they’re a very bad thing.
But, he got this movie funded and made, with some pretty big stars. When are faithful Catholic filmmakers going to step up to the plate and tell our own stories, rather than leaving it to the tender mercies of others?
Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment