Friday, April 4, 2014

Movie Review: For Greater Glory (2012)

For Greater Glory: The True Story of the Cristiada (2012) directed by Dean Wright

Part of my ongoing series of religious movies for Lent...

For Greater Glory tells the story of the Cristero War in 1920s Mexico. The Mexican Revolution begun in 1910 had enacted a constitution allowing suppression of the Catholic Church (closing church schools, confiscating churches, forbidding priests and bishops to administer sacraments or even appear dressed in clerical garb in public, etc.) but those laws were not enforced until President Calles came to power and decided to stamp out the Church in Mexico. At first the faithful who fight back are unorganized and poorly supplied (though women were smuggling weapons, ammunition, and other supplies to them). They are called Cristeros after their slogan "Viva Cristo Rey" or "Long live Christ the King." Leadership comes from former General Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), who has lost both his faith and his job. He runs a soap-making factory. When supporters of the Cristeros come to him offering a handsome salary and the opportunity to do something worthwhile with his life, he agrees. Even without faith, he still believes in religious freedom, which starts him on a road to conversion.

General Gorostieta's story is the central one, though many other people involved in the war have their story told as well. One Cristeros leader is little more than a bandit who wants little more than to kill Federales on his own terms. Another leader is a priest who both commands as a general and serves as a priest. President Calles gives speeches and manipulates the political scene, even influencing the United States ambassador.

The other main character is a boy named Jose, who at the beginning of the story is ten or twelve. He's a typical boy, liking to play tricks, even on his parish priest. The priest takes him under his guidance. When the priest is killed, Jose takes his faith and the rebellion seriously. He joins up with the Cristeros. The general fondly watches over him, thinking of the boy as his son. Ultimately Jose is captured, tortured, and killed by the Mexican government for his faith, an event that pushes the general closer to his faith.

The story of the general's conversion is interesting but not as compelling as Thomas Becket's in the movie Becket. The movie also suffers from a score that is too obvious in places and some hand-held camera work that draws too much attention to itself. The overall story of the rebellion is one that has been generally ignored historically but is very interesting. It's worth watching once just to see that story dramatically portrayed. The boy is Jose Sanchez del Rio, a real teenager who died during the war and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

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