I gotta be honest, I put this movie on to put me to sleep. But I'm happy to say that it utterly failed in that regard.
Instead I got caught up in one of the wildest obsessions ever documented on film. There was Fitzcarraldo, now there's Peter Brosnan. Brosnan's compulsion to uncover Cecil B. Demille's film set of his 1923 silent blockbuster The Ten Commandments -- the existence of which was initially in serious doubt -- could have, at many points, earned him legitimate psychological examination. Until he proved that it not only existed, but was worthy of historical recording and preservation.
Don't think for a minute that's a spoiler: we're now almost halfway though the film. There's a long road of more anticipation, thwarted hopes, and frustration ahead: lack of funding, government red tape, logistical setbacks and, oh yeah, personal doubt, before there's even a chance for a satisfactory story resolution that would make a film release feasible. If this was a fictional script, the screenwriter would be told to shave off a few roadblocks, and at least a decade, to make it realistic.
I can't help but compare Brosnan's quixotic quest to that of archeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who proved all the experts wrong, and that the city of Troy was no myth. Maybe not quite that academically important -- we are talking about a movie here, not an ancient culture that helped shape Western civilization -- but certainly as dramatic, thanks to this documentary, built on a foundation of interviews with those who participated in the film (many of whom died during the decades that Brosnan spent seemingly tilting at windmills).
Alongside Peter's journey, the film sets the story of Demille himself, who battled studio heads his whole professional life in order to get his expensive but immensely popular (and financially successful) films made. We learn that Demille's global impact went beyond entertainment, due to his consistently balanced representation of Middle East history and Muslims in his biblical epics. The effect of Demille's storytelling philosophy on moviegoers in the region directly led to his getting approval, 40 years later, to film the Ten Commandments' 1963 remake in Egypt; I can't help but consider this a lesson to those in political or diplomatic roles who, decade after decade, make shortsighted decisions that cause international ill will and hamper any progress.
All in all, this is a roller-coaster ride that, as the truth is unearthed from the sand dunes of Guadalupe, CA, provides plenty of drama, education and fun. If you like movies, if you like history, if you like stories of personal triumph over the odds, then this film is for you.