"Between heaven and earth...
between light and dark...
between faith and sin...
lies only my heart...
lies God and only my heart."
For Greater Glory:
The True Story of Cristiada
. . .
"What price would you pay for freedom?" is the film's tagline, one that certainly resonates throughout the movie, but could be reworded several ways. In the characters, we can see the questions rolling around, questions like: 'what price will I pay for family?' 'what price will I pay for vengeance?' 'what price will I pay for God?' In this epic, Western film, with just as many similarities to the movies The Patriot or Braveheart as it has to a traditional Western like The Magnificient Seven, For Greater Glory introduces the watching world to the Cristeros War--an event that has been largely wiped out from the history books, but not the hearts of the Mexican people.
For Greater Glory opens with a mandate being presented by President Calles, for a breaking off from all foreign relationships and a crackdown upon the Roman Catholic Churches in Mexico. The people instantly revolt, and the story starts as we watch from various viewpoints how the people of Mexico decide to defy the government. But, this government is ruled not by a willing president, but by a stubborn tyrant, and when the people say "No!", the government responds with sentences of death.
From here, we watch the journeys of many people, each with their own convictions, but all with the same purpose. Based on real life people, we see the peace-seeking press led by Miguel Anicieta fighting the government with words; we see the ranchero Victorino taking matters into his own hands with a gun in one hand and a cigar in the other; we see the priest-gunslinger, striving to fend off the government in order to have freedom; we see the atheistic General uniting the people against a government in the ultimate plight for liberty; and we see the young boy, Jose, inspired by the death of his Padre to fight for Christ--which he is told is the "greater glory".
In the end, then, this story is about many things, but it is mainly about the many sacrifices all these people gave in a hope for the greater glory. "Viva la Cristo Rey"; "Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadeloupe."
Overall, I thought the plot was very well constructed. We have here what really is a collage of stories, but each person's contribution is seen evident as all these people's lives weave in and out with each others'. You have the soldier, the strategist, the priest, the martyr, and the movie does justice to each person's role. In the end, however, while there are many important characters, the story primarily focuses in on the general and the boy.
The story flowed along well, and not too much of the movie's 2hr 23min is wasted. Still, there a few slow parts and what might be considered holes in the logical progression of the time frame. There are also a few battle instances that might appear rushed through or awkwardly paced. Those are easily overlooked, however, and can be explained away if one wants to get really particular with the movie's structure.
In my honest opinion, the characters were what truly made this movie. Portrayed by a stellar cast, each character was brought to life and you cared when you saw their struggles. Even the ones who had less than ten minutes of screen time had your heart screaming when you saw their sacrifices.
A few did fall flat, however. Not because they seemed fake, but merely because it would have been nice to see more of them in some of the scenes--particularly the "breather" scenes. That said, this still doesn't take away from the tears that fall for them. I don't want to say too much without giving anything anyway, so I'll simply say this: don't expect to watch this movie with a dry eye. By the end of the movie, there can be found a new sort of respect for each of these people, a sort of bittersweet satisfaction.
(- Casting: Andy Garcia, Oscar Isaac, Catalino Sandino Moreno, Santiago Cabrera, Eva Longoria, Peter O'Toole, . . .)
While good, the battle scenes weren't exactly stellar (except for, perhaps, one scene that comes to mind). Some might also think that there aren't enough of them. They were well placed, however, and handled fairly well. While they are deserving of an R-rating (mostly because of the implied viciousness, not the actual details), the effect is more of an emotional shock rather than a visual, gory one. All in all, the violence was handled well and the action, while not as good as it could have been, was satisfactory.
Considering that the Cristeros War is such an unknown event in history, I'm afraid that not much can be said on this front. I can say, however, that after the feature and during the credits, there is an amazing collection of photographs from the actual period, and there is continuing information on the lives of some of the people showcased in the movie. From what I know of the war, the film handled it very well and I am glad to see that the cast and staff were willing to do a movie on such an unknown story on so many different influential people.
Other inappropriate content
There is smoking (pipe and cigars), mild drinking (no one gets drunk or anything), thematic elements (wouldn't recommend letting young children watch this), mild cursing, little to no sexual content (there might be a reference or two in there; show's man talking to his wife while they're in bed).
Overall Rating: 88/100
On a side note, I'd like to tackle something about the ratings on other websites. Most critics, I've noticed, have given the film a rating as low as 4/10, citing its lack in production, its poor portrayal, and its religious overtones. The majority of viewers, on the other hand, have given the film a similar rating to mine (8.+/10). Reading further, I realized that this was because of what seems like a bias against religion on the critics side (perhaps even more so because the film is such an obviously Catholic film). It seems absurd to me that one would rate a movie poorly for that reason, especially considering that a movie like For Greater Glory can't really help but be so explicitly Christian in its content, considering that this is in fact the root of the Cristeros War.
That said, there really isn't anything remotely preachy in the movie, but that doesn't negate from the amazing effect it has either. At its basis, For Greater Glory is a story about a people's revolt against tyranny, for their liberty and for their God. It's a rally, and a reminder, to each of us. It provokes us to wonder what we would be willing to give up for the greater glory. For many, it was their very lives.
So then, on a story level, it is beautiful and will definitely be going on my list of favorites. Watch it if you can, and don't forget to bring the box of tissues.