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Faith is always such a contentious issue…
Pilgrimage is a tight and unique little film that really boils down some issues of faith that can be more than a little problematic even at the best of times.
It’s Ireland and the year is 1209 where a young novice (Tom Holland) is leaving his monastery for the very first time on a reluctant pilgrimage accompanied by a mysterious former Crusader (Jon Bernthal) who has sworn a vow of silence. A small group of monks head across an island torn between centuries of tribal warfare and the growing power of Norman invaders. As they escort their monastery’s holiest relic to Rome, the true value of the bejeweled relic becomes dangerously apparent and their path becomes increasingly fraught with danger as this young man will find courage in himself that will push his mind, body and spirit to places he could have never imagined.
At its core, Pilgrimage is a film with a subtle and understated power to it as it explores the ways that religion can be used for not only the greater good, but for personal gain as well.
With director Brendan Muldowney and writer Jamie Hannigan at the helm we get a picture that is perfect balance as the issues at hand play out in concert with a film that is as visually stunning as it is emotionally poignant. Putting religious zeal inside some standard genre trappings is a smart play as it allows the narrative to get dark and go to places that make a lot of people genuinely uncomfortable. Muldowney and Hannigan don’t shy away from some of the interesting problems of the time period as the world was coming into a place where the edict of religion wasn’t always taken to the letter and at any wrong turn you could meet a rather grizzly death, and these storytellers keep us in the moment while mulling over these sociological issues all at the same time.
Tom Holland proves once again the ability to carry a feature film as we see the story mostly through his eyes as a young man of faith wanting to devote his life to service but seeing a myriad of problems and influences around him in a world that he knows can’t all be solved through the power of prayer. He’s a good man in an incredibly complicated world for the very first time and he’s learning it in a way that he never even imagined. Jon Bernthal adds a unique sense of morality in a world that is seemingly ever more corrupt while the consistently underrated Richard Armitage slides into the bad guy roll with shocking ease. It’s a complex story and everyone involved really brings their A Game to some material that is not only philosophically deep but pretty darn violent to boot.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are top notch as you’d expect and the special features include five behind the scenes featurettes that include interviews with the cast and crew, as well as a poster gallery and a photo gallery.
Ultimately, something like Pilgrimage is thinking man’s genre as it presents some pretty heady ideas while making sure you avoid that broad sword that is coming straight for your head.