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!


  1. I loved the movie. I agree with you about the music though, it did not move me as much as in other movies. However, I did cry when Blessed Jose was tortured and shot. One thing I noticed was when they were torturing Blessed Jose and made him walk to his gravesite before they shot him, it reminded me of Jesus' scourging and walk to Calvary. He even fell one time in a similar way. Also, when he fell to the ground next to his grave, he drew a cross in the dirt that was filled with his blood when he was shot. That scene was very powerful for me.

    I agree that some of the characters needed more developing. Especially, Blessed Jose's parents. I thought it was a bit odd how they did not seem to play an stronger role in the movie. His godfather, who betrayed him, and the General seemed to have stronger roles in his life.

    Also, I could not quite get a sense of the Priest who was also a general. I am not sure if his actions seemed moral. Did he have the passengers burned on the train for revenge of his brother's death? Also, should a priest be inlvolved with killing, even in a just war?

    Overall, I thought it was a great movie for our current times. Hopefully, it will be seen by many people, strengthening their faith and resolve to stand up for religious freedom. I wish the Catholic Institutions that have closed or are considering closing because of the HHS mandate will rethink their position and stay open and disregard the mandate.

  2. commenting on your emotional or lack of an emotional experience.
    As a theatre owner i've noticed many times how the fullness of an auditorium effects the emotional experience.
    I watched "wild hogs" with 400 people and the audience roared at the jokes, which made it easier for others to laugh,later I watched it with 20 people in the same but almost empty theatre and there was barely a chuckle, the movie was suddenly less funny. i've noticed similar reactions in horror movies and tear jerkers

  3. This movie gave me the chance to expose my 17 yr old Protestant grandson to the world's hatred of the Catholic Church and our need for people of all Christian faiths to stand as one. It also gave me a great opportunity to explain how one is canonized a saint in the Church. I think he was impressed to learn 2 miracles had to be confirmed by not only Christian, but non believing doctors too. I seldom go to the movie theaters, but this was definitely well worth the effort.

  4. Regarding Item 5: The Media considers any movie that doesn't show Priests as predators or Nuns as prisons matrons as being a whitewash or over-glorification.

  5. I saw this movie on June 1. I think that because the characters in the movie are real the writer wanted to portraid them with respect. My great-grandfather was a Cristero, he and his family had to hide in different towns. His horse was shot and he hid in a small cave. The soldiers shot him so many times. He ask the Virgen Mary for help and when the soldiers left his clothes were filled with holes, but he was alive. Every time my grandmother talked about the Cristero war she would cry. The town people say that the soldiers who torture Jose were never the same after that day and in real life Jose's Godfather was the one the shot him. All of them came to God before their death. The war was horroble and there were so many miracles.