“Of Gods and Men” was written and directed by Xavier Beauvois. It is based on a real-life story of a group of Trappist monks who are stationed in a struggling community in Algeria who must decide whether to stay or go when fundamentalists terrorists begin killing people everywhere and they’d be easy targets.
The story itself is very moving. The very idea of being in such frightening, immediate danger, these peace-loving folk who only want to help the innocent villagers, and not knowing what path to take. The self-preservationist in all of us would want to flee in terror, but these monks were called not just to think about themselves but to think about and serve others as well. The villagers depend on these monks for health care, advice, and stability in their community.
Their elected leader, Brother Christian is played by Lambert Wilson. He may be the youngest of the group, but he stands up tall against the terrorists at their first meeting demanding all medical supplies. He refuses to give them any because it would leave none for the children who need them. The suspense of that meeting frightens the others and they end up holding a meeting and a vote to decide what to do. Not only do the monks suffer pressure from the dangers of the terrorists who are brutally shooting and slitting throats of bystanders, the monks are facing pressure from the army itself who wants to occupy their monastery (which would frighten the villagers) or force them to leave and abandon their post the community depends on.
While the story and message are very emotional, the movie itself can be quite dull. You are immersed in the day to day chores, quiet time, prayers, and songs of the monks that go on and on and ON. Obviously, this was done to establish the monks’ modest lifestyle, age and experience (which makes them move even slower), and to show them going on with routine even in times of great strife. If you are not fully vested in that level of religion, you will find yourself nodding off. About 75% of this movie is showing the monks’ quiet everyday lives, the rest is actual dialogue and moving the plot along. Every scene could have been cut down to half its length, moments are played way beyond what they need to be. It is just over two hours long and feels even longer.