Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD this week, after a VOD and limited theatrical run earlier this summer, is Pilgrimage. The latest film from Brendan Muldowney (Savage, Love Eternal), this medieval adventure stars none other than Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Jon Bernthal (“The Punisher“), and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit trilogy). Set in the 13th century, it tells the tale of a group of Irish monks and soldiers who set off on a quest to deliver a holy relic to Rome. Before crossing the seas to France, however, they must first navigate the treacherous terrain of their homeland.
They just don’t make movies like this very often anymore. Medieval quest tales and adventure films were once a regular thing in the film industry, but have since fallen out of favor. Now, aside from the occasional mega epic, they are few and far between, especially if they do not contain fantasy elements. Worse yet, the few that still get made tend to be cheap action films that are poorly shot, poorly acted, and poorly choreographed.
Pilgrimage is no period piece epic, but what it lacks in physical scope, it makes up for in thematic scope. Because of its focus on faith, religion, and fanaticism, it is a decidedly more brooding affair than something like Centurion. While its action moments certainly bring Neil Marshall’s film to mind a bit, I was also reminded of the oppressive tone of Christopher Smith’s Black Death. None of these films have much in common narratively, but all three deal with protagonists who seem to lose their way amidst the madness of their violent lives under the yoke of those who care little for them.
This is very much an ensemble effort, but at its center lies four important characters: Diarmuid (Tom Holland), The Mute (Jon Bernthal), Geraldus (Stanley Weber), and Raymond (Richard Armitage). Diarmuid is our requisite young monk who is as full of belief as he is doubts. While his brothers might not see the latter as an important trait, it is one that serves him more and more as the film goes one. Diarmuid might not doubt God himself, but he is certainly wary of those they are traveling with.
Geraldus is on the opposite end of the faith spectrum. He believes so fully in the cause and the Church that he’s transcended into fanatic madness. Anything that transpires to his liking is by God’s hand and anything that goes awry is surely the work of the Devil. You know the type. We all do.
Raymond is our requisite faithless man who measures life only in victory and power, not in piety. He views the mission itself as folly, preferring to continue waging war against his kingdom’s enemies and gaining favor of the king. Anything that can help him achieve the latter is on the table, no matter how dirty the job. He’s the kind of man who will stop at nothing to achieve his mission, which is a good thing so long as your safety is apart of his charge.
As for The Mute? Every religious quest is in need of a man seeking redemption and he is that personified. A tortured, silent individual with a unknown (and likely violent) past, he seeks only atonement and acceptance. It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that he finds both, as the devil is in the details here, not the end result.
Through these four characters and the four compelling performances behind them, we set off on a violent, brooding, and twisted journey filled with philosophical arguments, religious symbolism, picturesque landscapes, and carnage-filled battles. It’s pretty much everything you could want from such a film.
- “The Making of Pilgrimage” featurette
- “The Dance of War: The Fight Choreography of Pilgrimage” featurette
- “Building an Army: The Visual & Make-Up Effects of Pilgrimage” featurette
- “Sounds from the Past: The Languages & Music of Pilgrimage” featurette
- “Setting the Scene: The Locations of Pilgrimage” featurette
- Photo Gallery
- Poster Gallery
- Subtitles (English SDH)
Pilgrimage is not an instant classic of its genre, but it is nonetheless a well-made and well-acted compelling film. From an audio/visual standpoint, the feature looks and sounds great. While it’s a shame that the disc lacks a director’s commentary, the numerous featurettes more than make up for it. This is a stacked disc and well-worth a purchase if you are a fan of the filmmaker, the film itself, its stars, or movies like this in general.
The Film: 3.5/5
The Disc: 4.5/5
Pilgrimage is an original Irish medieval thriller. It is directed by Brendan Muldowney, from a screenplay by Jamie Hannigan. The film was produced by Geir Henning Elkeland, Rory Gilmartin, Stig Hjerkinn Haug, Kjetil Omberg, Nick Spicer, and Aram Tertzakian. It stars Tom Holland as ‘Brother Diarmuid’, Jon Bernthal as ‘The Mute’, Richard Armitage as ‘Raymond De Merville’, Stanley Weber as ‘Frere Geraldus’, John Lynch as ‘Brother Ciaran’, Eric Godon as ‘Baron De Merville’, Tristan McConnell as ‘Dugald’, and Eoin Geoghegan as ‘Crovderg’.
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