This new protracted sweeping drama starring Andy Garcia and directed by Dean Wright, known for his visual effects work in big-budgeted blockbusters like The Chronicles of Narmia might seem a little biased and propaganda to some while illuminating many to the ill-will and horrors of Mexico's Cristeros War (1926-1929). A tale with its share of deliberation may have trouble gaining a wider audience in a large continental neighbor to its north, although it could attract some attention in urban venues, even in their art-houses.
For Greater Glory (with just a smattering of Espanyol which should please those abhorrent of subtitles) is a strikingly made and somewhat trenchant examination of the provocation of an armed rebellion from the government's clamping down of its constitution which ultimately posits conservatives against the anti-clerics mainly because of the ownership of acres and acres of land by the Church.
President Calles (Ruben Blades) will get the heavily bigoted Federales involved in plenty of skirmishes with the Cristeros "Christ's Army" as the former commit atrocities against the Church, including desecration and murder.
Some of the internal conflict has Garcia's Gen. Enrique Gorostieta in the process of heading the Cristeros (and dealing with adversity from those of authority) and emphasizing military artifice to gain advantage. Enrique admits he's not a "devout believer" but stoutly believes in the honor when it comes to their profession of faith, and will gallantly go into action for their struggle for freedom.
An interesting part of what may be a little discursive finds a troublesome 12-year-old Jose, a sharply modulated debut for Mauricio Kuri, wanting to become part of Gen. Gorostieta's army after becoming closer to a clergyman, Fr. Christopher (Peter O'Toole) whom he hit in the head with some fruit.
Even in the more violent stagings with some surprise raids, the Cristeros are given more attention (particularly in close-ups) as the James Horner score sometimes has an evocative, stirring effect. The subtext of the resistance itself is neglected which may diminish the overall dramatic payoff, but there is something to behold when it comes to ruthless assassination and the opportunity for redemption.
Though the script probably doesn't give Garcia the opportunity to stretch his actorly prowess as in a comedy like City Island he imbues a sympathetic Gorostieta with vitality as well as vulnerability. Wright doesn't put a typical albatross on him as his defending to the end character is nicely balanced by Oscar Isaac as the sardonic "El Catorce," the venerably, avuncular icon in O'Toole, as well as the subtle compromising effectiveness of Bruce Greenwood as Mexico's U.S. envoy. For Greater Glory, to its credit, may stimulate some post-screening discussion, as well as prompt some to look further into Mexico's past which probably hasn't made it that tourist-friendly.