Headline version: It was amazing! … -ly bad.
It was too long by an hour and dripping with shlock and sentimentality. I had to resist bursting out laughing at its hamminess at points, including a ridiculously edited dream sequence and another flashback sequence, the overuse of swelling soundtracks at relatively unimportant scenes, and a text introduction in the film’s opening minutes. Why not just throw in star wipes to transition between scenes and maybe have Andy Garcia break the fourth wall by winking at the camera at some point, since we’re all apparently taking cinematic pointers from Battlefield Earth?
Despite its agonizing length, and perhaps out of weakness of stomach or simple cinematographic incompetence, it neglected even to suggest the full range of horrors for which the Calles government was responsible, limiting itself to bodies hanging from telephone poles and the torture of a teenaged boy. (Check out this Audio Sancto sermon for a more complete depiction of the many unprovoked atrocities committed by the Mexican government in its mysterious hatred of God). The fact that Calles was a Freemason, atheist, and socialist is never really mentioned — in fact, very little of the background to the war is mentioned, leaving the ignorant to scratch their heads at what the hell this whole thing was supposed to be about.
Most perniciously, as I hinted at before and as Dr. Charlton suggested more explicitly after the movie’s trailer was edited by its new distributor, the whole film makes the Cristeros out to be martyrs for the Enlightenment, rather than its victims. I mentioned a second ago that the ignorant were left initially unclear about who we were supposed to root for and why. Well, the movie quickly supplies the answers: the Cristeros. Why? Because they’re fighting for freedom! (By contrast, Calles’ primary evil is that he’s a tyrant, not that he’s, you know, basically a Satanist).
Ugh. Spare me. The movie captures enough of the truth that it will give atheists ulcers just knowing it exists (so, in that respect, hooray, I guess), but does anyone think we’re going to win the culture wars producing shlock like this? What a wasted opportunity — not even the sentimental shot-in-the-arm that Braveheart gave to Scottish separatists. Boo!