For Greater Glory
What price would you pay for freedom? An impassioned group of men and women each make the decision to risk it all for family, faith and the very future of their country, as General Gorostieta, the retired military man who at first thinks he has nothing personal at stake as he and his wife watch Mexico fall into a violent civil war. Yet the man who hesitates in joining the cause will soon become the resistanceÂ’s most inspiring and self-sacrificing leader, as he begins to see the cost of religious persecution on his countrymen . . . and transforms a rag-tag band of rebels into a heroic force to be reckoned with. The General faces impossible odds against a powerful and ruthless government. Yet itÂ’s those he meets on the journey Â– youthful idealists, feisty renegades and, most of all, one remarkable teenager named Jose Â– who, reveal to him how courage and belief are forged even when justice seems lost.
Genres:War, Drama, Foreign
Running Time:2 hours 23 minutes
Release Date:June 1, 2012
MPAA Rating:R (for for war violence and some disturbing images)
||Andy Garcia, Oscar Isaac, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Santiago Cabrera, Eva Longoria|
For Greater Glory an old-fashioned, Hollywood-style epic that overlays thundering hoof beats with a humid layer of piety, remembers the Cristero War, a bitter 20th-century conflict in which persecuted Roman Catholics rose up against the anticlerical Mexican government.
Largely played down by history books, the war, waged between 1926 and 1929, cost about 90,000 lives. Pope John Paul II later canonized more than two dozen saints and martyrs who fought on the Catholic side.
The movie is a much softer echo of fervent 1950s blockbusters with religious themes, like â€œThe Robe,â€ set at the dawn of Christianity, in which humble true believers who are ready to sacrifice their lives for their faith stand up to their godless oppressors. The best of those quasi-biblical movies still have the power to stir the blood and elicit tears. Mel Gibson has more recently made angrier and gorier versions of the same thing.
There may be no miracles or choirs of angels here, but religiosity, although restrained, is pervasive. Pablo JosÃ© Barroso, the filmâ€™s producer, founded Dos Corazones Films, a Mexican production company that the press notes state was â€œcreated as part of a ministry that produces films to convey messages of faith and family values.â€
Dean Wright, who directed â€œFor Greater Gloryâ€ from a screenplay by Michael Love, was the visual effects wizard behind the â€œLord of the Ringsâ€ trilogy. This movie, which was filmed on many of the actual sites of the conflict, is impressively spacious. The expansive scale and brisk but unhurried editing keep â€œFor Greater Gloryâ€ from stumbling over itself and becoming a bloated, grandiose exhibition of righteous saber rattling. The symphonic score by James Horner confers an inspirational mood that is uplifting without being syrupy.
Even if â€œFor Greater Gloryâ€ is considerably more sophisticated than some of its forerunners, its characters are clear-cut saints and sinners. To its credit, the film acknowledges the political history leading up to the war and the bargaining behind the scenes. Bruce Greenwood plays Dwight Morrow, the United States ambassador to Mexico, dispatched from Washington to protect American oil interests while brokering a peace.
But the diplomacy is just a footnote to the struggle for religious freedom. The conflict, which had been simmering for years, erupted when the Mexican president, Plutarco Elias Calles (RubÃ©n Blades), expanded and began brutally enforcing the anticlerical laws of the countryâ€™s 1917 constitution. Early scenes show soldiers on horseback breaking into churches, killing priests and destroying church property. Dead bodies are strung up along railroad tracks.
One of the first priests executed is Father Christopher (Peter Oâ€™Toole), a rheumy-eyed peace-loving cleric who takes JosÃ© (Mauricio Kuri), a mischievous boy, under his wing after JosÃ© lobs a piece of fruit at him. A witness to Father Christopherâ€™s murder, JosÃ© leaves his family to venture into the countryside, where he joins forces with the rebels and becomes the surrogate son of Enrique Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), a retired general and brilliant tactician hired by the leaders of the countryâ€™s ragtag Catholic militias to organize them into a unified army.
Gorostieta, a nonbeliever who champions religious freedom, is running a soap factory when the invitation comes. For a hefty fee, he agrees to develop a strategy based on carefully planned ambushes. Although Gorostieta has a deeply religious wife, Tulita (Eva Longoria, unrecognizable and barely seen in the film), he shares a passionate father-son bond with JosÃ© that forms the movieâ€™s emotional core.
The boyâ€™s arrest and persecution are staged as a kind of passion play exploited for maximum teary-eyed outrage. This beautiful, fearless young warrior, who refuses to renounce his faith while under torture, is forced to walk barefoot with slashed feet to his own execution. (JosÃ© was later canonized.)
Mr. Garcia, who sheds copious tears over the boy, is a solid and convincing hero humanized by the attachment. The movie also portrays Gorostieta as edging toward Catholic conversion without actually making the commitment.
Even at 143 minutes, â€œFor Greater Gloryâ€ cannot satisfyingly fill out the stories of a half-dozen secondary characters, and there are frustrating gaps in the biographies of Gorostieta and JosÃ©. The jamming together of so much history and melodrama makes for a handsome movie that is only rarely gripping.