Wright was a visual effects supervisor and producer in major films such as “The Lord of the Rings”. “For Greater Glory” is the first movie he directed. In an interview, Wright calls himself a “Method” director- needing to feel the emotions of the characters that he’s shooting, and to feel those emotions as authentic.
Some critics have faulted “For Greater Glory” for being too heavy on the emotions, milking the audience for a tearful reaction by playing stirring music nonstop, and prolonging sorrowful and upsetting scenes. The movie is about the peasant force in Mexico that rose up in 1926 against the anti-clerical President Calles, whose regime had been persecuting the Catholic faith. The rebels were called “Cristeros”. The movie shows how the rebellion was ignited by the brutality exhibited by the Federales, the government troops. Wright highlights the historical figure Jose Sanchez del Rio, a young boy who was martyred in the rebellion and was beatified by the Church in 2005. We see the rebellion through his eyes as he witnesses his parish priest killed by soldiers. Many believers today wonder how they would behave in a similar situation, and in the film, we see some Catholics turning away and others standing firm.
The acting is good, and while I do agree that they should have spoken Spanish instead of English, that is not a big hurdle in watching the movie. The rhythm and timing of the film is well done, and that helps enormously with the intimate and emotional exchanges.
The exact historical picture is not delineated in the film. It is not clear from viewing “For Greater Glory” that in actuality many citizens just stood by and watched, and that the rebel force was in the minority, although the rebellion was very effective. We see principal players, like the US ambassador, trying to make a deal with Calles for oil interests, and we hear of Rome’s shifting stance, which was not in open support of the rebellion. The result of the rebellion was that some religious liberty was restored, although the rebellion failed to bring down the government.
Wright takes artistic liberties in portraying the rebellion’s leader and other key historical figures, to suggest how circumstances can accelerate your belief and propel you into a life-changing situation. The leader, General Gorostieta, was indeed hired by the rebels and was not a believer. Wright takes some poetic license by putting Jose Sanchez del Rio, the young boy, under Gorostieta. In the film, Gorostieta slowly takes to the boy, and is compelled and strongly affected by Jose’s faith.
One reviewer took issue with the fact that the movie seems to be only concerned with the Catholics, and that other religions are not given equal “time”. Well, in that time, in Mexico, religion pretty much was the Catholic Church. Viewers can decide for themselves whether the Catholic faith, through the Cristeros, adequately defended the right to religious freedom.