Dave's Rating:


Spanish Civil Snore

Who's In It: Wes Bentley, Charlie Cox, Dougray Scott, Rodrigo Santoro, Jordi Molla, Derek Jacobi, Olga Kurylenko

The Basics: "Inspired by a true story" explains the opening credits of this fictional historical drama about the Spanish Civil War and the origins of the hardcore conservative Catholic order Opus Dei, begun by real life priest Josemaría Escrivá. And what they mean by that is that there was a Spanish Civil War once and that Opus Dei is a group that really exists. Everything else in this sleep-making machine about friendship tested and broken by war and faith and money and love and fascism and something called, no joke, "The Lesson of The Chocolate Bean," is a lot of jibber-jabber.

What's The Deal: If you're telling the story of a saint, shouldn't you speak the truth? Should you gloss over the uncomfortable political realities of that so-called saint's life? Should you pretend that they somehow, magically, always did the right thing and that the wills of that saint's real life enemies were supernaturally bent by the hand of God? Doesn't that cheapen your saint a little? And shouldn't it be exciting to watch instead of something your Grandma would put on the TV to facilitate her afternoon nap? It's a saint's superhero origin story, after all, not a stiff soap opera. Well, it wasn't until this movie came along, anyway.

Hey You Guys, Remember Roland Joffe? He was the director of The Mission and The Killing Fields, perfectly acceptable, serious-minded middlebrow movies that got nominated for awards back in the day. And then his career went sort of haywire and he got involved with the Super Mario Bros movie and that slutty MTV show Undressed and finally wound up directing that nasty torture-pornish Captivity, the one where the killer force-feeds the ground up organs of his victims to his next victims. So even though this is kind of a return to form for him, the stink of that other stuff lingers.

The John Waters Rule Of All Cinema and the Roland Joffe Almost-Rules of Lovemaking: First of all, the way you, the viewer, survive a stuffy, clunky, overbaked, out-of-touch period piece like this is to focus on the set decoration. That's the John Waters Rule. He probably didn't make it up but he's the practice's most famous advocate. There's always a vintage lamp or handsome wooden filing cabinet to admire. Completely unrelated to this is the now-twice-occurring thing in Joffe's movies where men and women react to violent chaos by becoming totally turned on. In this movie two fighting comrades begin making out in a foxhole as the bullets fly past their kissyfaces. Even grosser, in Captivity the man and woman who find themselves the lone survivors in a chamber of torture and death respond to the predicament not with a commitment to scheming their way out to safety, but with a full-on session of humpty-hump. One more time and it's going to be an official directorial fetish on par with Tarantino's lady-feet obsession.

Biggest Bummer: No dragons.


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