Movie review: There Be Dragons
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Opens in limited release Friday, May 6th, 2011
Run Time: 2 hours, Rated PG-13
Starring: Charlie Cox, Wes Bentley, Dougray Scott
Written & Directed by Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields, City of Joy, Captivity)
Don't be fooled by the title of this film...there be no dragons here. The dragons in this film refers to the problems or difficulties one must overcome, sort of like skeletons in the closet. Although there may not be any actual dragons, there is a whole lot of draggin', in this slow-paced, hokey period piece.
The Plot. Dougray Scott is Robert, an investigative journalist who is tasked with writing a biography on Josemaria Escriva, a controversial priest and founder of Opus Dei. The setting is Spain, and Josemaria was a part of the Spanish Civil War that took place in the early part of the 1900s. Robert's estranged father, Manolo, is one of the few living leads that Robert has, but their strained relationship creates a dead-end. When Manolo finally opens up to tell his and Josemaria's story, Robert learns a bit of understanding about his father's life.
The movie is told in more or less a flashback, with the father narrating cheesy self-important dialogue over most of the film. In flashbacks, we see Manolo and Josemaria's intertwined paths set against what was a vicious civil war, where families were turned against each other in the name of God and country.
From a scripted phone conversation at the beginning of the film all the way to the final scene, "There Be Dragons" suffers most from unrealistic dialogue. Save the fact that everyone in the film speaks English (yet we're set in Spain), nearly every line feels like it carries with it the weight of the world, nearly prophetic in tone. The worst mark against the film though, is just the tone...it is one boring movie, despite scenes of action and so-called drama. I can't put my finger on why, but the dialogue affects the characterization which in turn doesn't allow us to care about these people probably as much as we should.
We make our way through the film at a snail's pace, and it takes a good 90 minutes to finally get to why Josemaria or Manolo or any of this is important to us. By then, there's alreadya a disconnect, and the film has no chance to recover.
Bottom Line. If you see this film, you'll be hard pressed to understand what it's purpose is. It seems to be a tale of forgiveness, of how two young men from similar backgrounds can have take such different paths through life. It also seems to be a bit misleading, as a movie with the word "dragons" in the title provokes a level of excitement, and adventure.
So there be not much to recommend here.
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