In the 18th century, Spain and Portugal were at each other's throats over rights to territory in South America. Neither side suffered a great deal, the real victim being the native Indians. Here their only protection comes in the form of a Jesuit priest intent on giving God to the jungle (Irons), and a slave trader warring with the Jesuits who later joins their order (De Niro). The theme of Robert Bolt's script is the conflict between compassion and politics, at its moral centre the powerful church official (McAnally, marvellous) sent by the King of Portugal to decide whether the Jesuit missions, and the native communities which surround them, should survive. Enacted against the stunning backdrop of the Amazon jungle, the action has a rousing, epic quality. What it doesn't have, however, is passion. The climax is brutal, De Niro and Irons are impressive as the opponents who become soul mates; yet The Mission manages to be both magnificent and curiously uninvolving, a buddy movie played in soutanes.