Roland Joff and British directors of his kind once ruled the Oscar podium with their brand of bleeding-heart epic-making and David Lean--ish tendencies. The 1980s now seem like a lifetime ago, and Joff's twin triumphs, The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986), feel like relics of a noblesse oblige replaced by scrappier operators.
Joff's latest---not about mythological beasts but, in pretentious fashion, the Spanish Civil War---isn't much different than the films of his heyday. Rather, it'll make you think of how far we've come as audiences. A Euro-hunk journalist (Scott) hopes to reunite with his long-estranged father (Bentley, croaking in ridiculous old-age makeup), who tapes a shocking confession. Bring on the string-swaddled flashbacks of two boys, both leaning toward the priesthood. One turns out to be a selfish communist guerrilla (Bentley), while the other, real-life Josemara Escriv (Stardust's Cox), would achieve posthumous sainthood.
Controversially, Escriv started the Opus Dei, and There Be Dragons is best appreciated by those seeking more realism than the albino self-whipper of The Da Vinci Code. But don't presume Joff has daring in mind; instead, his bland drama walks a safe line between brutes and holy men. It's the kind of simplistic movie that features a benevolent chocolate maker and desk drawers containing both crucifixes and pistols. Which to choose?
Watch the trailer