5 Plot Point Breakdown: The Mission (1986)

By Pam Glazier · August 25, 2011

Screenplay Genre: Adventure / Drama / History

Movie Time: 125 minutes


Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) having traveled into dangerous heathen territory in order to found a mission, protects the native Indians from Captain Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro), a mercenary slave trader for Spain. “We’re going to make Christians out of these people,” explains Father Gabriel. (00:15:30)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

After having killed his brother for stealing his woman, Mendoza wastes away in a tiny cell ravaged with guilt. Father Gabriel comes to him and dares him to attempt penance. (00:30:18)


Mendoza, having found relief and love from his penance and from the Indians of Father Gabriel’s new mission, takes up the cloth of the Jesuit order. During a church inquest into the necessity of the missions, Mendoza accuses Don Cabeza (Chuck Low) of lying and slave trading. Even though Mendoza has told the truth, he is pressured to apologize for political reasons, and does so. (1:01:36)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

The church decides the missions must go despite proof that the Indians are good reformed Christians. Mendoza took an oath to kill no living thing after his penance, but he decides to stand with the Indians against this injustice. He ends up killing a soldier during a raid, and internally, it’s clear that this death shreds the holy vows he took. (1:30:48)


Father Gabriel, who was against Mendoza’s martial tendencies, even if they were correct, decides to fight with love. He has the women and children of the mission sing holy songs, and they march unarmed in a procession of peaceful prayer, but they are slaughtered by the supposedly Christian Spanish and Portuguese soldiers. Even Father Gabriel, in full religious attire, holding a holy scepter, is shot and killed. Mendoza watches this happen as he lays dying. (1:52:00)

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