Top critical review
Dull and Pompous
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?