The war movie is a unique beast. It can manage to be somewhat entertaining without any legitimate character development to get behind. Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla is a technically proficient and good looking film with some solid action sequences that illustrate the horrors of war, but without any characters to care about, the strong visuals lack any legitimate punch.
On May 5th, 1862, a few thousand Mexican soldiers put their lives on the line against the French army, which was the world’s largest and most powerful army at the time in one legendary battle for the freedom of Mexico in the Battle of Puebla, the most important battle in Mexico’s history. With the unbeatable French army on Mexico’s shores to set up a monarchy, General Ignacio Zaragoza is charged with the defence of the city of Puebla, with a poorly armed and undermanned battalion. It’s a chronicle of the bravery of a people pushed to the limit, fighting for their nation, their families and their pride.
I’ll be the first to admit that this film does have some genuine potential, but there’s no investment in the material beyond making it look and sound good. Writer/director Rafa Lara is successful at hiding any budgetary constraints that he may have had while shooting a big scale action film, with well staged battle sequences and fast moving along with some fairly solid production values putting us in the moment as these brutal battles were unfolding. Sadly the solid visual material isn’t helped by the words on the script as the narrative tries to cram in a variety of different smaller stories, none of which genuinely work.
Most North American audiences will more than likely not be very familiar with the entire ensemble cast with the exception of Zuno Becker, who plays General Ignacio Zaragoza and has never worked on an English language project before. No one is bad, but the narrative just didn’t provide any emotional gravitas to the war other then the fact that people die, and it’s usually pretty senseless. The performances are simply matching the material
Having any characters with depth would have helped so much. Instead Lara is more concerned with getting to all the historical points in this story in perfect order and staging some brutal sequences of war. It comes close for entertainment value, but it never quite hit the mark that you could feel it secretly aspires to.