Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Queen and Country

Image courtesy of BBC Worldwide Americas.
John Boorman's "Queen and Country" is a follow-up to the director's 1987 Oscar nominee and masterpiece "Hope and Glory," which told the autobiographical story of a family growing up in England during World War II. One of that film's most memorable scenes is when a German bomber takes out the school of the young boy who acts as the movie's narrator and lead character. He and his pals cheer at the school's destruction and the sequence is briefly replayed at the beginning of Boorman's latest film, almost to set the tone for its characters' gleefully anarchic behavior.

The picture frequently unfolds in somber tones and deals with some pretty heavy material, but the rapport between the film's character often also resembles the black humor of Robert Altman's "M.A.S.H.," another comedy set during the Korean War.

The year is 1952 and Bill Rohan (Callum Turner), the young lad from "Hope and Glory," is drafted into the Army, where he befriends a roguish lad named Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) and butts heads with a nasty sergeant named Bradley (David Thewlis) and a sadistic one known as Digby (Brian F. O'Byrne). The film, which is also autobiographical, also pays a fair amount of attention to a budding romance between Bill and a mysterious young woman whom he calls Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton).

This is the type of film where plot is less important than specific details or moments, especially given the memoir feel of the picture. There are some great scenes between Bill and his sister Dawn (Vanessa Kirby), a single mother of two who has been living in Canada and reunites with her brother while he is on leave. The struggling  romance between Bill and Ophelia is important, but so is a relationship that pops up between him and another young woman. I'm being vague because this might give away a story detail that crops up late in the picture.

And there's a fair amount of humor here, especially during the sequences in which Bill and Percy devise subversive plans to thwart their rigid superiors, including the theft of a prized clock. Joining them in their pursuits is a fellow officer named Redmond (Pat Shortt), who is good for some mischief, but can only be partially trusted.

"Queen and Country" tells the type of story with which most seasoned moviegoers are very familiar, but while it doesn't show us anything we likely haven't seen before, it tells its story very well. Often poignant and more often humorous, it's a very good companion to "Hope and Glory," which remains to this day one of Boorman's finest films. If you haven't seen that movie, I'd suggest you seek it out, watch it and then catch this lovely sequel.

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