Despite lavish production values, the film received overwhelmingly negative reviews and was a box office disappointment.
The film opens with screen titles describing the anti-Catholic provisions of the 1917 Constitution of Mexico. Civil war erupts when newly elected Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles (Rubén Blades) begins a violent crackdown against the country's Catholic faithful. The film depicts the carnage by showing churches being set on fire, Catholic priests murdered and countless faithful peasants killed, then having their bodies publicly hanged on telegraph poles as a warning to others.
The story shifts to Father Christopher (Peter O’Toole), a Catholic priest, who is ruthlessly murdered by the Federales. A 13-year-old boy named José Luis Sanchez (Mauricio Kuri) witnesses the killing. Driven by anger and rage, he joins the rebels, or Cristeros ("soldiers for Christ"), fighting against Calles. Their battle cry is "¡Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King"). The rebel leader, retired Gen. Enrique Gorostieta (Andy García), an atheist, takes an interest in young José and the boy soon becomes his protégé. Later while fighting against the Federales, José is captured in a firefight and tortured to force him to renounce his belief in God. When he resolutely defends his faith, he is executed. The next year Gorostieta is killed in a battle at Jalisco after becoming a Catholic. In 1929, however, agreements were made to restore religious freedoms. Pope Benedict XVI beatified Jose in 2005 along with 12 other martyrs of the religious persecution.Andy García as Enrique Gorostieta
Eva Longoria as Tulita Gorostieta
Mauricio Kuri as José Sánchez del Río
Peter O'Toole as Father Christopher
Oscar Isaac as Victoriano "El Catorce" Ramírez
Santiago Cabrera as Father Vega
Eduardo Verástegui as Anacleto González Flores
Rubén Blades as President Plutarco Elías Calles
Nestor Carbonell as Mayor Picazo
Catalina Sandino Moreno as Adriana
Bruce Greenwood as Ambassador Dwight Morrow
Bruce McGill as President Calvin Coolidge
Adrian Alonso as Lalo
Joaquín Garrido as Minister Amaro
Karyme Lozano as Doña María del Río
Alma Martinez as Señora Vargas
Andrés Montiel as Florentino Vargas
The film is based on The Cristero Rebellion, the 1976 chronicle of the war written by French historian Jean Meyer who resides in Mexico.
Filming started in May 2010 and shot for 12 weeks. Production took place between 31 May 2010 and 16 August 2010. The film was shot in Mexico City, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala and Puebla.
At one point the director recreates a famous photograph of the bodies of executed Cristeros hanging from telephone poles, in this case, however, being seen from a moving train.
The film had a robust opening in Mexico taking first place in gross admissions at the box office, and second in total receipts, behind Titanic 3D. As of May 11, 2012, it had grossed $2.2 million.
The film has received mainly negative reviews. As of 2012 it holds a 35% rating on Metacritic based on 17 critics, and a 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 45 reviews. The latter site states: "It has laudable aspirations, but For Greater Glory ultimately fails to fulfill its goals due to an overstuffed script, thinly written characters, and an overly simplified dramatization of historical events." Roger Ebert concluded that "it is well-made, yes, but has such pro-Catholic tunnel vision I began to question its view of events."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times described the film as an "old-fashioned, Hollywood-style epic" and said it compared favorably to Christian mega-hits of the 1950s such as The Robe. He was most satisfied with Dean Wright, referring to his direction as "impressively spacious". Composer James Horner also scored high marks for his score, which Holden found "uplifting without being syrupy" and which set an "inspirational mood". Phil Boatwright of the "Baptist Press" called the film "a compelling, thoughtful homage to religious freedom," saying it brings back memories of El Cid and A Man for All Seasons.
According to Steven D. Greydanus, For Greater Glory may help to change the obscurity of the Cristero War in the US. He observes that the film is "one of the most lavish and ambitious films ever produced in Mexico" and "a sweeping, handsome epic with strong performances, solid production values and magnificent locations across Mexico." However, he found the screenplay overbearing and would have liked to have seen more character development.
The movie received the following awards and nominations:
At ALMA Awards 2012, got nominations for:Favorite Movie
Favorite Movie Actor - Andy García
Favorite Movie Actress - Drama/Adventure - Eva Longoria
Favorite Movie Actor - Supporting Role - Oscar Isaac
Favorite Movie Actor - Supporting Role - Rubén Blades
At Ariel Awards 2013:
NominatedSilver Ariel Best Art Direction (Mejor Diseño de Arte)
At Image Awards 2013:
NominatedImage Award Outstanding International Motion Picture
At MovieGuide Awards 2013
WonFaith and Freedom Award
WonGrace Award - Most Inspiring Performance in Movies - Andy Garcia
NominatedEpiphany Prize - Most Inspiring Movie
NominatedGrace Award - Most Inspiring Performance in Movies
Mauricio Kuri Ferreira, Cornelia R. Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio: Cristero Boy Martyr, biography (2006, Canisius Books).j