Some more Pilgrimage reviews

Many of these really underline a sort of relish for violence (either approvingly or disapprovingly). Thank heavens for independent criticism.

Sees Armitage as underrated.

As a bloody spectacle, the feature steadily builds in novelty and suspense to a queasily rousing final fight. As a meditation on the possible merits of such brutality, however, it’s facile and self-satisfied.

It’s an odd mixture of Sunday church and comics that probably should have chosen one or the other.

Still, the story moves at a tedious snail’s pace. Those with limited interest in chain-mail sheaths and theology should prepare to be as bored as I was.

But, rather than keeping with any kind of old-fashioned motif, the director uses modern, wobbly hand-held camera for his muddy close-ups. Then, when the gruesome violence erupts, he responds with fast, choppy editing.

The film is stylish but emotionally distant, more concerned with bloody fights and weaponry than any meaningful character or thematic depth.

It appears that a great deal more of the budget was spent on fake blood than on tripods and other stabilizing equipment. The red syrup flows and gurgles, as director Brendan Muldowney exercises a practically Dark Age predilection for deploying swords, maces and other entrail-twisting implements of torture and violence. Some of the weapons onscreen exhibit more personality than the characters, only a few of which are allowed any personality at all.

However, PILGRIMAGE is a tad dull, and you’ll yearn for a little more swordplay – which only comes every now and then.

The main question is the nature of humanity—whether we are inherently peaceful or violent, whether the purpose of life is tranquility or conquest, whether we are capable of bettering ourselves or doomed to keep repeating the same cycle of war over and over again. These are big questions, and they’re ones that the film isn’t completely capable of addressing in a significant way.

Pilgrimage isn’t an enjoyable film – it’s far too brutal and heavy for that, but it’s one that’s undeniably well-crafted and boasts a talented cast serving up reliably strong performances.

Broken up by fight scenes that are impactful only because of their grotesqueries, the film remains too uncompromisingly black and white as a character study and a story of the conflicts of faith.

It’s decoration for what ends up more of a bruiser than a sincere presentation of history, but it’s welcome. Performances hit their marks, creating extremes in temperament and fear, with Holland solid as the corrupted youth, and Armitage wild as a demanding knight.

“Pilgrimage” takes itself too seriously at times, with the dialogue veering into the overwrought, and the metaphors about modern-day blind faith and undying loyalty becoming increasingly transparent and obvious.

There is, however, a central problem with the film: while it raises intriguing issues about religious belief, it also aims to be an action-adventure, a sort of thirteenth-century western, and the two parts don’t always mesh very happily. The periodic scenes of hand-to-hand combat and torture, though intensely played by Armitage, Lynch and especially burly Bernthal, are often so protracted and gruesome that they throw the film’s balance out of whack. Yes, the Middle Ages were a period of great brutality and copious bloodshed, but “Pilgrimage” is so determined to make that point over and over that the more thoughtful questions the embedded in the plot are often put on the back burner.

Somehow I had missed this: “Director Brendan Muldowney offered up his own creative confession via the film’s press notes. He says he lost the faith that had been instilled in him as a child. Since then, he sought a screenplay that could opine on both organized religion and the “historically corrupt” Roman Catholic Church.” Well, then. He said it himself.

Sadly, the complexity posed by this premise and setting is not realised in Pilgrimage’s execution, which sacrifices subtlety and development in favour of relentless graphic violence.

This is nonetheless a well-crafted piece that provides enough action to please an audience, without overwhelming its sombre mood or its underlying message.

The film felt very authentic in terms of the period detail and it could be argued that such violence was an integral part of that era. But it made for uncomfortable viewing.

The casting is excellent which mostly makes up for a story that feels a little thin.

~ by Servetus on August 12, 2017.

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