In 13th century Ireland, a group of monks must escort a sacred relic across an Irish landscape fraught with peril.
“Pilgrimage” takes place in Ireland in the year 1209 and it’s amazing that many of the locations where the movie was shot are probably in the same state they were back then. Ireland is where I was born, Dublin to be precise and while much of Ireland is absolutely stunning, parts of the country are devastatingly barren and desolate. The producers of “Pilgrimage” chose to take advantage of these locations and in doing so, have given their film a more realistic and authentic feel for what life must have been like back then.
The movie begins in Cappadocia in the year 55 AD. Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen as the replacement for Judas Iscariot following his betrayal of Jesus, is stoned to death by the very pagans he tried to preach to. With his dying breath, he cried out for mercy and the large stone that took his life immediately caught fire and hell opened up and swallowed the perpetrators whole. Matthias’ body was then elevated to heaven. The film then moves forward in time to the year 1209 on the west coast of Ireland. There, a small monastery of monks house the sacred stone, which, over the years, has become a sacred relic within the church. At the request of Pope Innocent III, a Cistercian, Brother Geraldus (Stanley Weber), is dispatched to Ireland to retrieve the stone, and bring it back to Rome.
Once he reaches the monastery, however, and informs them of the Pope’s request, their leader, Brother Ciarán (John Lynch), notifies him that he and a small band of monks will accompany him on his quest. As they start out on their pilgrimage to Rome, they must journey through areas that are fraught with ancient superstitions and battle unseen enemies. With the loss of life becoming more and more prevalent as their odyssey advances, they quickly surmise that not all of their enemies are from far-off places, but rather, from within their own group. As their numbers dwindle, and their enemies move closer, Brother Diarmuid (Tom Holland), a pious young novice, makes a decision that will change his life forever.
“Pilgrimage” has assembled a top-notch cast including the latest Spider-Man, Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal from “The Punisher,” and Richard Armitage from Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy. The film also boasts some terrific supporting Irish actors in John Lynch, Rúaidhrí Conroy, and Hugh O’Conor. Watching the monks onscreen walking around in their Medieval cloaks, which couldn’t have been much warmer than a regular blanket, in pouring rain and trekking through freezing cold rivers, made me very grateful that I was not in their place. Granted, having grown up in Ireland I’m only too aware of the cold weather that can plague the country, especially during the Winter months but the movie generates genuine Irish living conditions that dominated the island during that timeframe.
By the time the final credits began to roll, I found I had just gotten into the film. Watching these characters having to survive not just frigid weather conditions, harsh landscapes, and the blades and arrows of approaching enemies, compelled me to invest even more in them and with a running time of only 96 minutes, I could have watched several more hours and even that probably would not have been enough. Kudos to director Brendan Muldowney for delivering a rousing, nuanced tale filled with superior performances and exquisite photography.
Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack & DVD Tuesday, October 10th