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There Be Dragons: Movie Review

Hannah Goodwyn


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A soul-stirring story paralleling sheer faith and staunch disbelief, There Be Dragons is a cinematic lesson of two men forever affected by the violent Spanish Civil War. Critically-acclaimed filmmaker Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission) tells a fictional story based on the true events surrounding the war and the life of Josemaria Escriva, the controversial founder of Opus Dei. Limitedly released in theaters last summer, this new faith-focused film is set to release on DVD on January 10, 2012.

Taken from the Latin phrase written on ancient maps (“Hic Sunt Dracones”), There Be Dragons explores the dark demons man fights within himself and the hope found in a surrendering faith in God.


On a trip researching a book he's writing about St. Josemaria Escriva, investigative journalist Robert Torres returns to Spain to interview his father. Not knowing much about his father's past or the extent of his connection with Escriva, Torres is met with resistance as Manolo prefers to keep his checkered past quiet. Dark secrets are soon revealed about Manolo's past with his former friend Josemaria. Haunted by his sins, Manolo exposes repressed hurts while telling his story and that of Escriva, who was steadfastly faithful to God even through the darkest of circumstances.


Without being preachy, director Roland Joffé tells an incredible story of faith and forgiveness in There Be Dragons. Actions always speak louder than words; and that’s true for the emotive action in this film. Joffé, who also wrote the film’s script, takes it steps further, offering dialogue that evokes the soul. An agnostic, Joffé does an incredible job of encompassing some of the most important teachings of Jesus Christ in this Hollywood movie.

Matched with St. Josemaria Escriva’s faith on screen is the fictional Manolo Torres’ hatred and bitterness. Manolo's life clearly represents how darkness and unhealed wounds can destroy a man. It’s night and day looking at these two characters, inexplicably showing how faith can free a man while also showing how cynical doubt can keep one captive.

This spiritually-inclined film joins the famed director with a skillfull cast, featuring Charlie Cox as Escriva and Wes Bentley as Manolo. Cox (Boardwalk Empire) and Bentley (American Beauty) genuinely capture the essence of these two complicated, developing characters. Rodrigo Santoro (300), Dougray Scott (Ever After), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech) appear in supporting roles.

For a movie made by mostly unbelievers, There Be Dragons comes across as a pro-Christianity film. It should be known that the film does center on Catholicism. Josemaria Escriva's history is quite controversial with regards to some of the practices of Opus Dei (“Work of God”), the religious group Escriva founded. One particular scene shows Charlie Cox, as Josemaria Escriva, inflicting pain upon himself, as is a reported Opus Dei practice called self-flagellation.

Though the film follows Escriva's story, it does not feel like a biopic intended to solely honor this priest's life. There Be Dragons goes beyond his story to where you don't even realize your watching his story as you begin to reflect on how faith and forgiveness is lived out in your own spiritual life. Joffé's film reaches deeper levels, touching on the cost of sin and the reach of forgiveness, darkness struggling against the light. It leaves the viewer asking the very question posed at the beginning of the film as it referenced Spain's civil war: whose side are you on?

Rated PG-13 mostly for war violence and foul language, There Be Dragons contains inappropriate material for children.


DVD watchers will be pleasantly surprised to find a testimonial video featuring actor Wes Bentley. In the extras clip, Bentley opens up about his former alcohol and drug addiction and how he got sober and returned to his faith during the filming of There Be Dragons. The special features also includes deleted scenes from the film.


Controversy aside, There Be Dragons is an admirable modern-day parable about consequences. Navigating the same turmoil during the Spanish Civil War, Josemaria and Manolo’s lives end very differently. It’s a reminder of how much faith – or the lack of it – guides our lives.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's