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VINE VOICEon 17 October 2014
Some ancient philosopher once reportedly said that 'if you plan on killing a man dig two graves (one for yourself)'. This film puts across a complicated story of human relationships in a time of civil war. It is well produced and well acted. That combination results in a terrific film that is both gripping and thought provoking. It is nothing like I expected but I am glad that I have watched it and will do so again in the future. I am pleased to have it in my film library.
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This film is `inspired by true events', and as such takes quite a lot of poetic licence. The story begins with Robert, a journalist, (Dougray Scott) being asked to investigate the life of Jose Maria Escriva (Charlie Cox), as he is about to be Canonised. He discovers that his estranged father went to the same seminary as him and so uses it as an excuse to reconnect with his dying patriarch.

The story then starts to be told in flash back and we start around 1911 when the two boys were friends. It turns out that his father knows a lot more than most and all of their lives are sort of intertwined. The real story takes place during The Spanish Civil War (1936 -39) where Manolo (Roberts dad played by Wes Bentley) gets involved with both sides in the fighting.

The story of the War is told in tandem with that of Jose Maria as he becomes the modern founder of Opus Dei and does charitable works and faces many threats; being a Priest he is particularly susceptible to summary execution at the hands of the Republicans/Communists/Socialists/Anarchists or what ever you want to call the `legitimate Government'.

This is written and directed by Roland Joffe (`The Mission' and `The Killing Fields') and had a fairly big budget that was actually quite well spent. The battle scenes are effective, with good CGI where it is used. The direction is excellent and the acting is all above par. But the narrative drives this and as ever there are some stretches of belief required a couple of times. To say any more would be a plot spoiler. It is also just over two hours long, but it does not feel like a long film and I thought it ended quite quickly as I was up for more. So despite the few flaws this is really rather good. Despite the subject matter this is all in English, although there are attempts at Spanish accents. There are a couple of cameos from Charles Dance and Derek Jacobi too.

This may not be Joffe's best film but is far from being a bad one. If you are an historically accurate fan there will be things to take issue with, but if you want a rather original film set against the background of a tragic episode in World history then this should be one to get.
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on 21 October 2013
I chose to buy this Blu-ray because I had seen a trailer on another of my dvd's. I knew nothing of the backround to this film but I am interested in the historical time frame of the film, the Spanish Civil War is of great interest to me. I found the story easy to follow, although it does jump forward and backward in time. I am also a Roland Joffe fan. There is some unusual casting in the minor parts.Who would expect Geraldine Chaplin or Sir Derek Jacobi to appear in such small roles ??
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on 20 June 2016
From the director of The Killing Fields comes the tale of the early life of Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá (future Murdock Charlie Cox) and his friend Manolo (Wes Bentley) as both men go down very different parts during the chaos and bloodshed of the Spanish Civil War.

A great big plodder, Joffe's quasi religious biopic-cum-war epic is unfocused and undercooked. Much like with 'From Greater Glory' not long after, its the elements the film doesn't dwell on that are more fascinating and well realized than what our plot is. All of the Civil War stuff is infinitely more compelling than the goody good Escriva and his spiritual journey that will lead to Opus Dei's creation, mainly because Joffe seems to be more at home with large battles and military tensions then he is in examining theology or the questions surrounding it. Escriva and most of the cast feel less like people and more mouthpieces for the film's lanky take on faith and forgiveness, royally crippling the drama by jumping between him and Manolo's career as a Republican soldier which, again, is better handled albeit very routine 'love-turned-jealously'. It's sloppily done and leads to really wonky pacing that doesn't help the tedium nor benefit the admittedly well mounted battles in the second half.

Sure, we have an all star cast who turn in competent work (though Cox himself doesn't have much to work with), solid production values that recreate War torn Spain rather well and a moving score, but the attempt to balance the two narrative sides just doesn't work. Really, I can boil it down to one closing statement: What does it say when the life of a controversial religious icon, the main driving plot no less and why the film was even made, is substantially less interesting than the time and nation it's set in?
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on 21 March 2012
Director Roland Joffe has made a fair attempt to portray the early years in the life of Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei the Organisation, Branch, Section, Extremely Religious Order,call it what you will of the Catholic Church that is allegedly 'shrouded in mystery' but IS really no more than THAT - extremely devout!
Joffe takes us from Jose Marias' childhood through the eyes of his close friend and on into his teenage years when he joins the Seminary and has the first thoughts of what is to become Opus Dei.But this isn't a film purely about religion? It involves of course love,hatred,death,jealousy,torture and everything else that went with the period that was The Spanish Civil War,the worst of ALL Wars, when Fathers killed Sons and Brothers killed Brothers all because of their Political beliefs!
The Church and its' Priests were especially targetted and the Battle scenes are very realistic.
Personally I think that Joffe has made a very interesting film of what many people would perhaps have thought would be simply just another religious film. Well acted, especially convincing by Charlie Cox in the lead role, filmed in Spain and Argentina.
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on 30 November 2013
Movie loved and hated in equal parts.To start mix Spanish civil war and religion 2 controversial issues in my country.
But there be dragons is much more, it is a very neutral look at our war, which is not expected to arouse old hatreds but well otherwise preaches forgiveness, which is the central theme of the entire film there lies the entire message.
Where everyone isn't bad or all good, which is welcome.
We follow the childhood and youth of 2 friends Joseph María Escrivá and Manuel Torres very different between them since the provincial Spain to Spain in war and look at the different ways that take both.
The script is very good as well as the direction, outstanding performances, as well as the technical aspects, photography, sound, soundtrack, costume... etc.
Film that can be enjoyed equally whether you're religious or not.
I for example am not and is already among my favorites.
The best:Everything.
The worst: that has been so misunderstood in Spain.
Recommended 100%.
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on 30 September 2015
enjoyed this film . fantasic stroy line keeps you with it.
the cast of the film , do the film a great justis .
the name of the film refers to our human nature .
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on 24 August 2013
Historical inaccuracies apart (of which much is claimed by other reviewers), I thoroughly enjoyed this film & was very moved by the ending. Could not fault acting, photography, dialogue, story etc. I especially enjoyed the fact I didn't pay much for the film although I would not have been disappointed had I paid much more. So, there are those who will dispute real events but for film lovers, I say just enjoy this film for what it is.
(Just how did they get Tyrone Powers to resurrect himself to play Wes Bentley's part?)
In similar (cheap but very good emotive film) vein, I would recommend 'GOING BACK' - Vietnam flashback film starring the excellent Caspar Van Diem.
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on 7 September 2015
Very moving film of the horrors of civil war and the life of St Josemaria Escriva.
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on 6 March 2014
The movie is not as overly religious as some reviewers have made out. It is a war movie with a great emotional involvement from various characters. Some say that the portrayal of Saint Jose is over the top and that he was seen as some sort of Hero, the movie is not about Saint Jose being a hero, it's about him being a human being who struggles in the Spanish civil war. Some people said that the movie puts a gloss on one side and a frown on the other. It is neither, all sides are shown to have their bad side. Look at the movie, even the followers of Saint Jose say they want to take revenge for seeing a priest being killed. This movie is about a war, and with any war movie, there is good and bad on both sides. Regardless of your religion, this is as good a movie about the Spanish civil war you will get in English.
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