Roland Joffé’s There Be Dragons (2011) A Movie of the Spanish Civil War? or A Propaganda Piece for Opus Dei?

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There Be Dragons is a movie on the Spanish Civil War, focussing heavily on the founder of the Opus Dei José Maria Escrivá. That’s in itself problematic, but the movie has other shortcomings besides reeking of “propaganda”.

There aren’t all that many movies on the Spanish Civil War that’s why I was quite keen on watching this movie. I normally like Dougray Scott and seeing that he’s in this, made me hope it would be good. Unfortunately he’s just a minor character, although the one who gets the ball rolling. Geraldine Chaplin who is also starring in this film has an equally small role.

Roberto Torres (Dougray Scott) is a young journalist researching José Maria Escrivá (Charlie Cox), a priest and founder of the Opus Dei who is a candidate for canonisation. Roberto discovers that his own father from whom he is estranged since years, knew Escrivá. He travels to Madrid, hoping his father will tell him everything he knows about the priest. While Robert’s father Manolo (Wes Bentley) was friends with José Maria when they were kids, they later fought on opposite sides during the war. The movie tells their respective stories in flash backs. They don’t overlap all that often; it’s really the story of José Maria on one side, and the story of Manolo on the other. Only towards the end, they are briefly joined again. A third story line, tied to Manolo, reveals why the relationship between Roberto and Manolo was so difficult. It has something to do with a tragic love story involving Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko).

Due to these different stories, which are only loosely connected, the movie really is a mixed bag. It glorifies the courage and determination of José Maria, his faith, his steadfastness. Although I don’t feel qualified to say much about the Spanish Civil War with which I’m not very familiar and even less about the role of the Catholic Church, I can still say that the depiction was very sentimental and never grabbed me. I was a bit more interested in the frame story between Roberto and Manolo.

Another flaw was the tempo. This was one hell of a slow movie; it never really took off. This is too bad because the cinematography and the score were superior but I felt they were wasted on this film.

I always thought that Roland Joffé was a director who would guarantee a good movie but unfortunately that isn’t the case. I have no clue what drove him to glorify the founder of Opus Dei. Very dubious. I can’t recommend this movie.

I almost forgot to mention that this is another one of those movies in which all the English speaking actors talk in a heavy Spanish accent. Ludicrous.

Have you seen it? Have seen another movie on the Spanish Civil War that you would recommend?

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Centurion (2010): A little bit of Gladiator, King Arthur and 300

When I started this blog I wanted to stick to war movies in the strict sense of the term only but now I feel I am in the mood for more liberties. A few months back I would not have included Centurion but now I do. I would not have mentioned Gladiator, King Arthur or 300 either. (If I did, King Arthur would be high up in my Top 10, probaly even making Black Hawk Down step down.)

Be it as it may, to compare Centurion (a British movie by the way) to those above mentioned movies is very unfortunate for it because it is not up to the comparison, I’m afraid. Nevertheless it is  entertaining. However, compared to the three others, Centurion is super gory. And there are a lot of very combative warrior women in it. By the way, Dominic West, from The Wire,  is in this one too but he is not the main character. He stars as General Vilnius. Michael Fassbender has the leading role as the Centurion Quintus Dias. The German actor Fassbender could already be seen in 300, Inglourious Basterds and The Devil’s Whore, to name but a few of his movies.

The year is 117 AD. The Roman Empire stretches from Spain to Egypt and as far as the Black Sea in the East. Only Britain is fighting off its invaders. The Empire is stopped by the savagely fierce Picts.  Centurion Quintus Dias is the only survivor of a Pictish raid. He joins the legendary Ninth Legion of General Vilnius who is on a mission to erase the Picts and their leader Gorlacon from the face of the earth. When they are ambushed and the general is captured Quintus Dias is left alone with a small platoon far behind enemy lines. They first attempt to free their general and after this the real hunt begins. Led by a female warrior tracker (Olga Kurylenko), surnamed she-wolf, who has been mutilated by Romans in her youth and sworn to destroy each and every one of them, the Picts hunt them relentlessly. Without the help of a Pictish outcast, said to be a witch, they would not stand a chance but even so, they are soon highly decimated and in great trouble.

As said before, Centurion is really gory. It reminded me of Gladiator because of the battles in the woods. Of King Arthur because of the way they flee and are hunted,  because of the scenerey, mountains and snow and  also because of the female warriors. Same for 300. A little group outnumbered by a fierce enemy. The end however is quite different from the other three.

As I already said, it is not as good as the other three mentioned movies, since it is not  heavy on psychology and the Picts are shown as savages whereas we are led to believe the Romans were faultless,  but it is an  entertaining watch with loads of  battle and fighting scenes.

For a change the trailer is quite true to the movie.