Pilgrimage – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Brendan Muldowney
Writer: Jamie Hannigan
Stars: Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal, Richard Armitage
The opening scene shows an early Christian, in the first century, being stoned to death by a mob and the coup de grace is the dropping of a substantial heavy stone on his head. The skull duly shatters. It is a gruesome beginning. The film then fast forwards over to the wind swept wildness of the West coast of Ireland in 1209, where a small group of Irish speaking monks eke out their existence. Their prized possession is namely the stone which finally killed the Christian martyr all those years ago. It is kept safe in its own gold bound casket. It contains divine powers, so much so that the Vatican has requisitioned it to be transported to Rome. Apparently from there it will be used in an attempt to retake Jerusalem for Christendom. Because of the Relic’s innate powers, it has to be guarded on such a journey.
Of the five monks who accompany the Relic, Brother Diarmuid (Tom Holland of Spider-man fame), the youngest, has the most interesting and complete personality. He is able to relate to the Mute (Jon Bernthal) who radiates a magnificent solitude in his muscular presence but he has a past. The first scenes in Ireland are spoken in Irish but Normans, who are becoming more dominant in Ireland, try to capture the Relic. They naturally speak in French while there seems to be an overall lingua franca throughout which surprisingly is English. That said, speech does not dominate; it is action, indeed violent action, which rules.
Obviously as the film is a journey across Ireland there are multiple opportunities for shots of impressive scenery which abound. But the mood of the film is dour and the predominant weather seems to be the classic Irish damp grey. The colours of film are grey, brown and various shades of darkish green. These sombre colours complement the mood which moves through various blood curdling violent scenes. It is not for the faint hearted but medieval religion was not for the meek. Indeed the opening scene warns well the audience what to expect.
There is certainly more than a nod to the epic movie genre in Pilgrimage. However its overall violence and the paucity of the dialogue prevents it reaching that firmament. In addition an epic would be expected to last longer than an hour and thirty two minutes. On the other hand, that was sufficient.