"There Be Dragons" Explores Saints, Sinners and the In Between

By Christa A. Banister | senior editor, www.watchgmctv.com
Posted: Wed, 05/04/2011 - 14:55

Considering it's usually the big-budget fare that tends to grab the most attention, it's a rare feat when a movie that's slated for a limited release like There Be Dragons is garnering some pretty big buzz well before opening day.
Already open in many theaters across the pond and debuting Stateside on May 6 in select cities, There Be Dragons was written and directed by Roland Joffé, who describes himself as a “wobbly agnostic” and has been behind the lens on everything from The Mission to Fat Man and Little Boy to City of Joy.

Based on true events and filled with religious imagery (the movie poster targeted to the Christian market has the words faith, forgiveness and redemption alongside a statue of an angel wielding a sword), There Be Dragons definitely provides viewers with plenty of food for further thought.
In fact, the film flirts with some pretty provocative subject matter, namely sainthood, betrayal, the Spanish Civil War and the origins of Opus Dei. For the unacquainted, Opus Dei is an organization of the Roman Catholic church comprised of clergy and lay members that’s interested in fostering Christian principles at all levels of society. Known for being secretive and for its particularly aggressive recruiting, it was portrayed in a rather unflattering manner in The DaVinci Code.

Even though Opus Dei figures into the story, it's hardly the film's main focus. What's far more prevalent in There Be Dragons is examining the shades of gray in, well, everyone – saints and sinners alike.
Serving as the story’s central protagonist is a London-based journalist on his own mission. Charged with researching a book about the canonized priest Josemaria Escrive de Balaguer (Charlie Cox, The Merchant of Venice), who’s also the controversial founder of Opus Dei, Robert Torres (Dougray Scott, “Desperate Housewives”) eventually discovers that his best source is actually related to him.

As it turns out, Robert's estranged father, Manolo Torres (Wes Bentley, Jonah Hex and American Beauty), was not only a childhood friend of Josemaria’s, but they attended the same seminary.

Considering the distance that’s grown between them over the years, Manolo is extremely hesitant about sharing his story and even refuses to see Robert initially. He is dying, after all, and he doesn't really see the point of unearthing what's far, far back in the past. But before Robert is forced to resort to begging, Manolo has a change of heart (the power of journalistic persuasion, perhaps?) and begins dictating what he calls his “memoirs” into an old tape recorder.
Strangely enough, for having so much in common, Josemaria and Manolo's lives went in drastically different directions. While Josemaria was focused solely on preaching God’s good news, Manolo became entangled in fascism and eventually, a double life after he falls in love with a Hungarian revolutionary named Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace) during the Spanish Civil War.
The marked differences between these two men are presented in flashback form, and before you know it, There Be Dragons has suddenly transformed into an old-fashioned war movie, full of tragedy, intrigue and moral ambiguity.
Unlike the aforementioned DaVinci Code, however, There Be Dragons doesn't ever fully court the story's most controversial aspects, including Opus Dei. If anything, the movie makes no definitive statements about religious beliefs, the complexities of war and otherwise.

Instead, the filmmakers leave the audience with the task of drawing their own conclusions about what essentially drives some people toward good and others toward evil, an opportunity for plenty of post-movie discussion about the bigger existential issues regarding faith, friendship and the fallen nature of man.

Clocking in at 120 minutes, There Be Dragons is rated PG-13 for violence and combat sequences, some language and thematic elements.

Copyright 2011, www.watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.


About the Writer

After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, Crosswalk.com (she review movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media, Songs4Worship.com, PassAlong.com and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.

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