I've had this film in my Netflix queue mostly because it became one of my favorite James Horner scores from the minute I first heard it last year. It is an outstanding, pure Horner score. Some might deem it overly emotional, but I love every second of it. It's big, sweeping, romantic, emotional... everything I love in a James Horner score. I love the Latin flavor, love the action, love the love theme, love everything about it. I’ve listened to it countless times since I picked up the CD. Barely a day has gone by since I got it that I don’t listen to it at least once, or think of it. It had that much effect on me. So I had decided I wanted to see the movie, which somehow flew completely under the radar when it came out. I hadn’t even heard of it, despite having Andy Garcia as the lead. So, Andy Garcia and James Horner... I’m in.
Then I found it also has Oscar Isaac in it, so, yeah, had to watch sooner rather than later.
And I loved this movie. Really loved it.
The album is long, nearly 80 minutes long... and to my surprise, there was a lot of music in the movie that’s not on the album. I knew the movie would be emotional just from the score. So it didn’t surprise me that I cried my way all the way through it. Now, some of that has nothing to do with the movie. Some of that is still just me dealing with Horner’s death. Yes, I still cry when I hear his music, and this score made me cry from the first time I heard it, before I even knew what the movie was about, so adding powerful images into what is already a personal rollercoaster... I was a bit of a wreck watching this one.
The movie is based on the true story of the Cristero War. This is a chapter of history I don't recall from any of my history classes. The Mexican Revolution, yes, but not this rebellion, which followed it in the late 1920s. The Mexican president attempted to get rid of the Catholic church's influence and power over the people by enacting a series of anti-clerical laws that were brutally enforced. The people rose up again to fight for their religious freedom. This movie fictionalizes and follows some of the players through that vicious conflict.
I admit, I'm a sucker for this kind of story. Freedom of all kinds is very important to me. I'm not religious in any way, shape, or form, but I believe very strongly in the rights of people to worship according to their own beliefs. The fact that Andy Garcia's character of General Gorosteita was an atheist but fought just as hard for beliefs he did not personally share just appealed to me even more. That's my kind of character. I've been a big fan of Andy Garcia since The Untouchables came out and several of his movies are among my favorites. I loved him in this movie. His character was both strong and touching.
Then there's Oscar Isaac, who is great in this movie. If I hadn't already loved him as an actor, this role would have done it. His character of Victoriano Ramirez has a great, memorable entrance, great action sequences, and he gets to mouth off to Andy Garcia's character. It made me laugh with delight to learn some of my favorite music on the album belongs to his character. As much as I adore Andy Garcia, and as great as he was in this, I have to admit my favorite scenes in this movie all belong to Oscar Isaac. From that grreat entrance, to how he earns his nickname El Catorce, to the scene where Andy Garcia earns his grudging respect, to the touching scene between him and Andy Garcia where they talk about failing someone. Okay, yeah, really anytime those two were together was great. Oscar Isaac is one of those chameleon actors who looks and sounds totally different from role to role. And I love his scruffy, dirty, Mexican freedom fighter look in this one.
The rest of the cast is also really good. I particularly liked Santiago Cabrera as Father Vega, Bruce Greenwood as Dwight Morrow, and Catalina Sandino Moreno as Adriana. Reuben Blades has the rather thankless job of playing the Mexican president, and he sells it perfectly. The actors playing the truly bad people in this movie were outstanding as well, as I hated their characters passionately. Peter O'Toole has a small role as a kindly priest, and he was lovely, as always.
The movie's a fair bit rough to watch in a few places. Oppressive regimes tend to do very bad things to innocent people, and a movie covering such a time period is going to have some of those moments, and that's hard. And the end has an unnecessary "sum-up-the-movie" sequence that was the only part of the movie that didn't work for me. The rest I loved. I also liked the end credits that provided extra info on the fates of many of the characters. The on location scenery in Mexico was beautifully shot.
This is a movie I'll be picking up on DVD.