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Tribeca 2017: Pilgrimage

Jason Adams reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival

There is a real interest at times in wrestling with faith and violence and the intersection of the two in Pilgrimage, director Brendan Muldowney's post-Crusades action film starring Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal, that is reminiscent of Scorsese's Silence. Unfortunately Muldowney's ultimately a bit too infatuated with the violence - in the squalor of grinding organs and bashing heads - at the near obliteration of anything concrete to say about faith. Of course what is faith but a question mark? Some spilled brains?

It's the 13th Century in Ireland and a band of not-so-merry monks are living along the remote coast protecting a most holy relic, and also doing some light gardening....

One day a white robed monk (you know he's trouble because he's a bit fey, providing a contrast against this group of solitary manly men living manly lives all alone together with nary a woman in sight) shows up with an order - bring the relic to Rome. The Holy Father needs it to get the people behind him. The youngest of the order (Holland) and his good friend, a mute servant-type who he watches while half-naked in the woods (Bernthal), go along for the ride, to take in some sights.

The journey across the gorgeous, muddy wilds is fraught with dangers and enemies, both small (marauding murderers) and large (bigger marauding murderers). Richard Armitage sweeps in on a cape with a French accent and stares at Jon Bernthal shirtless in the woods some too. 

If I make all of this sound campy... it's not. But that's what it needed, I think. It's not a bad film but it's terribly self-serious and muddy (literally) and ultimately unclear in its purpose, and there's a great joke at its heart (what the relic turns out to be) that it doesn't seem to have any sense of being a joke. I kept thinking of what Ken Russell would've done here - this material if pushed to its breaking point could've had something to say about the basic absurdity of mute belief. As is it's a serviceable actioner whose head and heart ultimately sinks like a stone.

Pilgrimage plays at Tribeca at 9:45 PM Thurs (4/27) and 9:00 PM Fri (4/28)

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Reader Comments (6)

tom holland and jon bernthal appear to be workaholics. They're in everything. But I suspect at least Tom Holland will disappear for awhile as past spider-mans have as if the character has swallowed them whole.

April 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Yeah, of all the cast members from Walking Dead to have a great film career, I wasn't expecting it to be Bernthal (although he's no longer on the show, so that helps a lot). I mean, he wasn't exactly "good" on that show but, hey, good for him for working non-stop since then.

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