Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"For Greater Glory" Review

WARNING: some of this review mentions details from the film, if you haven't seen the film, you may not want to read the review

Let me know what you thought of the film if you've seen it.  Here's my take:

I checked out "For Greater Glory" yesterday afternoon, and I thought I'd share my thoughts.

1) GREAT acting all around.  Andy Garcia is a beast in everything he does, the child who portrayed Jose was also phenomenal, and in general there was not one character who's acting made me cringe.  To me nothing breaks you out of the "spell" that any good movie should cast upon you like bad acting.

2) I also loved the movie because it is extremely faithful to the true events of the Cristeros' uprising in Mexico

3) As many have noted, it was also a highly relevant film for our own time given the assault on religious freedom that is just in its early stages in our country.  U.S. Catholics are much closer to being in the same situation as the Mexican Catholics in the film than most U.S. Catholics would like to admit.

4) Negative: I felt the film lacked something, and I'm not sure exactly what it was.  I'll try to summarize a few guesses
        a) There seemed like there wasn't enough time spent on something, and I don't know what exactly that something was.  I am talking purely about feeling here, but I just didn't feel that emotional when the boy was killed.  I hope it isn't merely a function of being cold-hearted and insensitive, but I cry when I watch movies, so certainly for me the precedent is there for me to get emotional during a film, but I didn't when the young man was killed (certainly the torture was tough to watch, and was impeccably acted), nor did I FEEL much when Garcia's character was killed at the end.  A very similar situation is played out in the movie Glory (also historically based from the Civil War) and I cry every time the captain and his men die coming around the corner in the Rebel base.
            Again, I thought the acting was very well done, but maybe the way the story was put together didn't allow me to feel the same type of connection that I've felt even for characters from other films that are completely made up (I cry every time Bruce Willis dies on the asteroid in Armageddon, for example).

       b) perhaps on a similar topic I felt the film would have been well-served to have had a better soundtrack.  There wasn't any constant theme running throughout, and nothing jumped out at me from that aspect.  For me, music goes a long way in terms of getting me invested into a movie's story and into its characters, but I didn't think the music from the film served that purpose.

       c) perhaps with the story it tried to do too much?  Some subplots/secondary characters that they tried to squeeze in were 1) the sadistic-secondary-in-command-torturer, 2) the betrayal of rebel forces from a higher power who should be backing the rebellion 3) The U.S. diplomat subplot 4) The rebel Cristeros who doesn't want to join Garcia's rebellion at first, etc.

        It seemed these subplot story lines were not all necessary and would have made the film simpler and easier to follow if they were axed, and would have allowed more time for Garcia's actual conversion story and/or his connection to the young boy.

5) The idea that the story over-glorified Catholicism or that it whitewashed history is simply unexplainable after watching the film.  The film seemed very real, is very closely based on true events, and didn't over glorify or over-demonize anything in my opinion.  It did a nice job of even making the Mexican President seem personable and offered glimpses to at least make his power lust and need to control everything seem non-demonic.

6) The film is also being criticized by some as having been created as an HHS Mandate commentary.  This movie was written and shot and came together well before the HHS Mandate was on anyone's radar, and so the idea that someone whipped this film up six months ago is crazy.  What such commentators simply fail to acknowledge is that religious freedom is the most oft-attacked freedom in the history of the world, and so there are many examples from the past that will strike a chord with American Catholics (and indeed all Americans who value religious freedom) who are seeing their own religious freedom under assault.

Overall I give the film a B+, I was glad I saw the film, and I'll probably watch it again to see if I missed some things, and to see if my opinion of the film shifts at all.  I think it is worth a theater viewing, and again I think the acting was extremely well done.  Let me know what you think!