We're talking about "For Greater Glory", for glory's sake, or "Cristiada", or whatever in the world this film is called. I personally prefer the former title, because it makes this film sound like a superhero flick, especially when you see that one kind of corny poster in which the title in question hangs beneath Andy Garcia while he strikes a justice pose with no one else around, and find yourself walking into this film expecting a sequence in which Garcia blows away an anti-Catholic government resistance with laser vision, then flies up and places a knocked-over, giant Jesus statue back onto the roof of a Catholic church in "glorious" (Get it?) triumph. Okay, maybe this film's poster doesn't look that superheroish, being not quite as likely to summon the bizarre expectation I was just talking about as the act of actually seeing this film, not just because this film features Nestor Carbonell, the mayor of Gotham, as a mayor, and even Bruce Greenwood, one of the many voices of Batman, (There's some nerd out there thinking, "Batman doesn't have superpowers, those are Superman's powers!") but because this film gets so corny that it may as well turn into a superhero film. No, maybe this film isn't quite that cornball, but seriously, with all my talk of titles, if anything, this film should probably be "Overambition: The Motion Picture", as it aspires so much to be a successful desert-set war epic that the filmmakers went so far as to dig up Lawrence of Arabia, and I don't mean T.E. Lawrence, I mean Peter O'Toole, who was probably T.E. Lawrence...'s grandfather's roomate...'s teacher. No, but seriously though, it's good to see that Peter O'Toole is still alive (His eyes are so wide all the time, maybe it's a shocker to him, too), though it's unfortunate that he couldn't be in a better film. Granted, I like this film, thinking that it's not as bad as they say, but Dean Wright could have had a better debut as an epic filmmaker, especially considering that he's worked on the visual effects of such epics as... "The Lord of the Rings", "Titanic" and "The Chronicles of Narnia". Okay, disregarding, "Gone in 60 Seconds", "What Dreams May Come" and [Oh, I'm goin' down in a burnin'] "Reign of Fire", Wright appears to have taste in projects, though could have made a smoother debut as a graduate from epic film visual effects departments to the level of epic filmmaker, because as decent as this film is, it's far from as glorious as it, or at least its title thinks it is, and for more than a few reasons.
The potential proper runtime behind this film's story concept isn't exactly sprawling, though it is hefty, and at just under two-and-a-half hours, this execution of said story concept seems to be perfectly even in length, though that's just on paper, because when you get down to the final product, the film achieves its length through story structuring that is anything but perfectly even, making lengthiness glaring through padding repetition and excess material. This repetition and material lingering isn't too terribly abundant, or at least not as abundant as it could have been, but it is there and pads things out near-aimlessly, though not quite as much as certain areas in the basic story concept outline, in which you can find an excessive abundance of characters and subplots that overblow the film's plot and would be more forgivable if they were more firmly fleshed out, because although you do get something of an adequate understanding of this film's characters and their stories, investment goes distanced more than a bit by the placement of minimal effort into the shaping of this film's depth, even with all of the excessive runtime feeding. This film may be bloated, yet in too many areas, it's more trimmed than it should be, whether when it's doing little to engagingly flesh out thin characters, or simply moving plotting along with a kind of hurrying that isn't terribly exhausting, but taints this film with a fair degree of constant momentum that loses steam after a while, until broken up by the aforementioned bloating, and capped off with an embarassingly slapdashed, forced disaster of an cop-out ending. Perhaps this film's story structure isn't quite as uneven as I make it sound, yet there's no ignoring that the final product achieves the length that its concept ostensibly says it should have through many a moment that outstays its welcome, met by many an area that stands to be meatier, which isn't to say that the script flaws end there, for although Michael James Love's screenplay isn't exactly a disaster, it is heavy with tropes that plague a worthy story with genericism that sparks predictability, while sappy set pieces ignite cheesy spells. The film gets to be histrionic, presenting unsubtle writing spots, made all the more glaring by Dean Wright's storytelling, which, like Love's script, isn't bad, but blemishes atmosphere with delicacy limiting that sparks anything from a near-overbearing overemphasis on pro-Catholic overtones, to a mere thinning of genuineness. Really, if this film is nothing else, then it is overambitious, having every right to go a little bit too far with its aspirations, - seeing as how such aspirations reside behind a project that is rich with potential - but ultimately undercutting what could have been through too much hope, which makes the flaws that truly betray this promising project all the more offputting. The final product falls short of what it wants to be and should be, and yet, with that said, what this film does do well is done well enough to keep the final product going, not to where you can easily ignore the missteps, but certainly to where I at least found things to be fairly entertaining, or at least musically competent.
One of the great score composers of the modern film industry, James Horner holds a catalogue that is rich with strong musical efforts, a bit too much of which is rehashed in this film, only with quite a bit of watering down, as Horner's score work for this film feels a touch to reminiscent of the score work on something like fellow slightly minimalist, ensemble war epic "Glory" (Oh shoot, "For Greater [u]Glory[/u]"; come on, Jim!), only with a few more more traditional score tropes, called more to attention by Dean Wright's overbearing manipulation of Horner's score, thus making for a James Horner score that stands to have a bit more punch, even though it's still quite strong, in spite of shortcomings, having sweep and dynamic depth that may get to be a touch overbearingly misused by Dean Wright's manipulative directorial mishandlings of musicality as an atmospheric supplement, but still has enough genuineness to its crafting, and enough expected sharpness to its performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, to reward. Horner's efforts have their natrual shortcomings, but are ultimately worthy, much like the efforts of Salvador Parra, whose production designs really aren't too upstanding, but are still clever enough in their structure to give this film's world a neat uniquness, and adequately sell you on this film's setting, if not certain action set pieces. For a man who has been fairly big behind the visual effects of such masterpieces of epic action as "Titanic", "The Two Towers", "The Return of the King", and so on and so forth, director Dean Wright could have staged this film's handful of action set pieces a bit better, though it's not like this film's battle sequences bore, being not necessarily juicy enough to be really memorable, but with enough grandness to scope and dynamicity to staging to hold your attention, if not your investment in the substance behind the battles. Technically, this film isn't quite as sharp as I was expecting, or at least hoping it would be, considering the ambition and veterans of technical competence behind this project, but the film still turns in more than a few colorful technical touches - from fine occasions within Eduardo Martinez Solares' generally so-so, to the aforementioned more consistent strengths in technicality - to compose worthy style that adds livliness to substance, something that deserves as much livliness as it can get. I wish I could say that the storytelling behind this film is close to as sharp as the actual story concept behind the storytelling, but I can't, as Michael James Love's script and Dean Wright's direction betray much of what should have been in the execution of this film's worthy subject matter, though not to where it's hard to notice that this film's story is, in fact, worthy enough in concept to ignite a reasonable degree of immediate intrigue, livended up by certain decent performances, particularly those of leading man Andy Garcia, as a noble non-believer who will find his lack of faith both intensified and tested by many a dangerous and emotional conflict, and of young Mauricio Kuri, as a young man who is swiftly thrusted into maturity by danger, tragedy and harsh reality that will prepare him to fight for the sake of what he believes. The onscreen performances are much too underwritten, yet they have their moments, and much of that, to a certain degree, can be said about Dean Wright's offscreen performance, whose ambition gets to be overbearing in its being intense that it makes other flaws that much more glaring, but still has a certain charm to it that, on occasions, claims your investment adequately and gives you a very brief taste of what this film could have been in order to refresh engagement value. There high points in Wright's storytelling are, of course, very rare, yet they still stand, breaking up flaws whose intensity is still diluted a touch by this film's being, if nothing else, kind of entertaining, with enough livliness - augmented by technical strengths and charming performances, both onscreen and offscreen - to get by as a decent film that could have been so much more, but still charms about as much as it bears down.
In closing, a conceptually fitting runtime turns out to be sloppy, going achieved through an uneven story structure that offers both bloating - particularly when it comes to the subplot departments - and hurrying, thus diluting investment, which takes further damage from many generic tropes and sappy histrionics in writing that dilute subtlety, brought all but entirely to destruction by the superficial direction and overambition that makes this worthy project an underwhelming final product, though one that isn't quite as sloppy as many say, as enough entertainment value - spawned from Dean Wright's lively direction, James Horner's decent score work and decent production value that particularly color up action - and intrigue - spawned from commendable performances by Andy Garcia and Mauricio Kuri, and the worthiness of this film's subject matter - is formed to make "For Greater Glory", or "Cristiada", or "Overambition: The Motion Picture", or whatever, a charming war epic, even though it should be much more than what it is.
2.5/5 - Fair