Movie Review: For Greater Glory
Length: 143 minutes
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Directed by: Dean Wright
Stars: 3 out of 5
Mexico in the early 20th century is a topic that most filmmakers will not touch. Director Dean Wright is an exception. Though "For Greater Glory" marks his first foray into directing, he previously worked on the big-budget epics, "Titanic," "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," in a visual effects role. He brings his experience and expertise to "For Greater Glory."
The movie starts when the 1917 Constitution of Mexico swept across the country. President Plutarco Elias Calles (Rubén Blades, "The Devil's Own," "Safe House") forces his country to act out against any practicing Catholics. The men and women living in the country murder missionaries and Catholic Church members, burn down buildings, and even attack nuns.
Father Christopher (Peter O'Toole, "Lawrence of Arabia," "Venus") is a Catholic priest who is killed because of his faith, as a young boy stands by and watches. The young boy, José Luis Sanchez (newcomer Mauricio Kuri), joins a group of soldiers fighting back against the terror. When the leader of the group, Enrique Gorostieta (Andy Garcia, "Ocean's Eleven," "Smokin' Aces"), sees the young man, he decides to foster him, taking on the role of a surrogate father. Their relationship takes a backseat, as the movie delves into the issue of religious persecution and focuses on the historical facts surrounding this era.
"For Greater Glory" harkens back to the glory days of Hollywood when directors and producers created grand movies like "Cleopatra" and "The Ten Commandments." The movie focuses on the Cristero War, which left nearly 100,000 people dead. Some of the Catholics who defended their rights and died for their beliefs later became saints in the Catholic Church. It was actually a gruesome moment in history. Yet, Winter manages to bring a beauty to the film with scenes that show the natural wonders and amazement of the country.
Wright added a realistic note to the movie by shooting scenes at the same location where the events occurred. Many of those locations are practically untouched by time, which lets the viewer get drawn into the story. Behind each scene is an impressive score by James Horner that brings the scenes to life and adds intrigue to the story.
"For Greater Glory" falls victim to the same problem that plagues other historical films because it puts every character into clearly defined roles. There are the good guys and the bad guys, and no character can sit on both sides or fall into the middle. Wright wants viewers to root for the rebels, led by Garcia, but Garcia's men inflict the same type of damage and destruction as the other characters do.
Wright also makes a minor misstep when it comes to the scenes surrounding José. Nearly all of scenes come across in a way designed to impart the most emotional damage. The film introduces him as a poor orphan boy who only finds solace in the church. When he later finds himself captured during the battle, Wright pushes the envelope, wanting the audience to feel sympathy and even cry for the boy. The scenes come across as slightly forced, which can make some viewers feel slightly cold.
The best part about the movie is Andy Garcia. From the moment he arrives on screen, viewers will find themselves rooting for this reluctant hero. His character, Gorostieta, only joins the fight when others give him money. Though he joined the fight for the wrong reasons, his character is someone that the audience can empathize with and root for throughout the movie.
His character becomes even more of a hero when Wright introduces his wife Tulita (Eva Longoria, "Over Her Dead Body," "Without Men"). Fans of the actress might not even realize that she's playing the part after leaving her sex kitten looks behind. Dressed down and in minimal makeup, Longoria makes it easy for the audience to believe her as a woman who cares more about her religion than she does her husband.
"For Greater Glory" is not the kind of feel good movie that people expect from summer blockbusters. While it does have some emotionally charged scenes, the movie focuses more on the battles fought during this era in Mexican history. With the combination of expensive action sequences, big-budget special effects, and first-class acting, it's the kind of movie that will attract anyone with an interest in history. Though it does have some slow moments, "For Greater Glory" tells the story of an era that few people learned about in school.