Director: Brendan Muldowney
Starring: Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal, Richard Armitage
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 3.5/5 Blood of Christs
Coming out just after the summer hit that was Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tom Holland strips off the super suit for a medieval monks garb in the Irish medieval drama Pilgrimage. We have had a strong invested interest in Pilgrimage since the first trailer dropped earlier this year due to a solid ensemble cast of Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal and Richard Armitage starring in this low-budget Irish flick.
Set in the year 1209, a group of Irish monks are tasked with a mission from the Vatican to deliver a sacred relic they have been safeguarding. The relic is believed to hold a strong holy power to strike down those of impure heart who lay hands on it. Led by the dangerously devoted Brother Geraldus this handful of Irish monks and a mysterious mute must trek across a war-torn and perilous Ireland.
Opening with a scene of a holy man dragged by a lead to a circle of men who proceed to stone him to death sets the melancholic tone the film holds throughout. Unflinching in its representation of the brutality in medieval times and a more heartless representation of the Catholic Church, Pilgrimage is an often uncomfortable watch. Whilst the film captures the beauty of rural Ireland there’s a sense of dread with storm clouds lingering in the distance and a washed out look to landscape that looks scarred from years of war.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the film’s star power, with Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal both having a particularly strong year in terms of performances. Unsurprisingly both are top-notch here as Holland plays young monk Diarmuid who not only does a stand up job of the dreaded Irish accent but also nails the difficult Irish language as Gaeilge. Bernthal plays a mute and while he does not speak a word he plays the role masterfully as a man bottling up intense rage and guilt. Even Richard Armitage is forced out of his comfort zone employing a french accent as the unstable Norman soldier Raymond.
The films modest budget does rear its head at times though as Muldowney employs a handheld look for many scenes which becomes distracting and had me wishing for steadier shots. The narrative is a little aimless in the first thirty minutes but the novelty of Spider-Man, The Punisher and Thorin Oakenshield trudging through rural Ireland is pretty engaging in its own right.
Grim, gritty and gruesome, Pilgrimage has plenty of guts but no glory. Similar to violent historical films like Black Death (Christopher Smith), A Field in England (Ben Wheatley) and Centurion (Neil Marshall). Whilst rough around the edges, Pilgrimage has a fast pace that doesn’t allow for much time to dwell on its flaws.