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Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
Starring Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea,
Alan Rickman and Julia Roberts
Written and Directed by Neil Jordan
The Irish woman I walked out of the theater with told a tale of an uncle of hers who had fought in the Irish Civil War during 1920s. Her friend nodded and mentioned the picture that hung prominently in the household. As for Michael Collins one lady said it "was overdramatized a bit" to which her friend responded, "It didn't need any dramatization."
When I was a boy, Michael Collins was a name completely unfamiliar to me. However Eamon De Valera, the President of Ireland was the man lionized on television programs like the original series of Biography. Michael Collins is Neil Jordan's recreation of the final years of the man who founded the Irish Republican Army, and then negotiated the treaty which led to the creation of a Free Irish State and the partition of Northern Ireland.
Enough History, let's focus on the story, of which there is plenty.
We begin with the quashing of the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916 and the introduction of Eamon De Valera (Alan Rickman) and Michael Collins (Liam Neeson). De Valera fancies himself a statesman of the diplomatic kind and is known to the British as a leader, and he escapes the firing squad solely due to his American citizenship. Collins, Irish born, wants to fight but is told to bide his time. Both men do jail time, but Collins gets out first. With his friend Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn), Collins leads the formation of the next wave of Irish resistance, and develops the guerrilla warfare style that would empower the I.R.A.
Collins and Boland both fall for the same woman, Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts). Collins rabble rousing convinces Ned Broy (Stephen Rea), the government man assigned to tail him, to become the IRA's mole within the Brit police force. De Valera is broken out of prison and takes Harry to the U.S. as his number two, hoping to meet with President Wilson in his role as "president" of the non-existent Irish State.
While Collins' IRA limit their attacks to soldiers, the British do not respond in kind. By the time De Valera returns, the Irish are engaged in bloody warfare.
There are three stories and two conflicts at play here, only one of which may be intentional. Collins and Boland for the hand of Kiernan. Collins and De Valera for the leadership of the Irish people and the loyalty of Boland. By the end of the film, the question of who is the greater statesman is left to you. Director Jordan closes the film with a quote which leaves no question as to where he stands.
Jordan and his team have done a marvelous job of creating the the Dublin of 75 years ago. Liam Neeson's portrayal of Collins is a unique step forward for the actor. He is a fighter who is forced into the role of peacemaker and then must fight his own to maintain the peace. His friends and compatriots become enemies; the woman he makes swear never to fall for him does. Collins' gets buffeted from every angle and Neeson handles the demands of the role well.
On the other end is Alan Rickman's De Valera, a characterization in contrast to what the history PR machine generated for TV all those school years ago. That the Roberts and Quinn characters are pulled back and forth between the two is just the mark of a continually changing and enthralling piece of cinema.
I was thoroughly impressed with Michael Collins at almost every level. A movie is something you can sit and munch popcorn to. You lick the golden topping (butter if you're lucky) off your hands and suck down a cold soda and have a good time.
You won't want popcorn for this one.
This film fixes your eyes to the screen and they will stay there for the two hours and five minutes (my watch) that it will take to go from start to finish. It is the kind of film that gives you much to talk about on the way out and on the next day. I was moved.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Michael Collins, he would have paid . . .
Movies are real easy to turn around and walk back in. Films, the way I define them, require thought and discussion with your friends before you go back in. Michael Collins is a very impressive film.
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