Movie Review: ‘PILGRIMAGE’ is earnest and gruesome, a combo that doesn’t work


Kip Mooney // Film Critic

Rated R, 96 min.
Director: Brendan Muldowney
Cast: Tom HollandRichard ArmitageJon Bernthal and Stanley Weber

PILGRIMAGE wants to be BRAVEHEART so bad. It is both earnest and gruesome, which doesn’t exactly work. Severely dull in its first half and breathless in its second, it wants to be a story about upright religious men called on a holy mission, but with plenty of breaks to kick ass.

Tom Holland, so great this year in THE LOST CITY OF Z and SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, plays Brother Diarmuid, the youngest monk in a small Irish sect. For centuries, they’ve been entrusted to guard a holy relic. But when the king’s bloodthirsty son (Richard Armitage of THE HOBBIT trilogy) threatens them, they flee with the sacred stone.

Much of the first part of the journey is arduous, for the travelers and for the audience. There’s discussion of religious duty and the meaning of life, but it’s mostly weak conversation from writer Jamie Hannigan, making his feature debut.

But a little over halfway through, savage bandits attack the caravan in a brutal scene that recalls the opening battle in The Revenant. Though it’s nowhere near as skilled or captivating as that film, it at least picks up some steam, even as the corpses pile up.

Jon Bernthal (Netflix’s DAREDEVIL) plays the Mute, a laborer among the monks who doesn’t speak. His meek nature hides his brute strength and intensity. He easily lays waste to half a dozen of the bandits. Bernthal is quite good, even he gets (almost) nothing to say.

But the film’s problem isn’t its acting or staging. It’s because, like too many movies, at war with itself. It wants the profundity of SILENCE with the bloodshed of GLADIATOR. It’s nowhere near as deep as the former and far grosser than the latter. It’s simply a journey not worth taking.

Grade: C+

PILGRIMAGE opens in theaters, on VOD and Digital HD on Friday (8/11).
Dallas: AMC Hickory Creek.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.