For Greater Glory

It’s a shame more world events don’t have a beer sponsor. Everyone celebrates the Cinco de Mayo victory, but who has heard of the three year long Mexican “Cristeros War.” Even without so much as beer product placement, the movie For Greater Glory, opening on June 1, puts this religious war into the American mainstream. In the late 1920s, an elected socialist government attempted to secularize Mexico. That is where For Greater Glory begins.

To establish how the oppression and resistance escalated, an overwhelming cast of political and military leaders are represented in the film. The drama is personalized through the eyes of the alter boy Jose (Mauricio Kuri). Peter O’Toole is outstanding as the avuncular priest Father Christopher, whose execution gives Jose a deeply personal stake in the Cristeros resistance. The first part of the movie takes place largely in Jose’s town where he witnesses the human cost of the conflict. He finally leaves home to join the Cristeros army.

The second half of the movie follows Jose to the Cristeros military encampment. In camp, Jose becomes like a son to General Enrique Gorosteita Velarde played by Anthony Garcia. The war is a religious conflict and there is a strong religious undercurrent simmering right below the surface of the film. The General’s religious ambivalence brings the spiritual aspect of the conflict to the surface.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes, For Greater Glory covers a lot of ground. It isn’t that the movie is too slow; the problem is that it is too fast. Scenes are short. Subplots are left unresolved. Important issues are alluded to but not explored. Most importantly, the audience doesn’t have time to develop rapport with this strong cast. The movie feels chopped up. Prediction: we will see one pissed off director’s cut from first time director Chris Leach.

Leach has an impressive background in special effects, including on the LOTR Trilogy. He puts his background to work by makingthe regular ambushes, shootouts, battles and atrocities seem realistic without getting too gory. A welcome twist is the witty dialogue and humor that provides a reprieve from the action, intrigue and drama that dominate the movie.

For Greater Glory is good as a snapshot but leaves too much out to work as a portrait.

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