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"Bull" McCabe's family has farmed a field for generations, sacrificing endlessly for the sake of the land. And when the widow who owns the field decides to sell the field in a public auction, McCabe knows that he must own it. But while no one in the village would dare bid against him, an American with deep pockets decides that he needs the field to build a highway. The Bull and his son decide to convince the American to give up bidding on the field, but things go horribly wrong. Written by
If you are interested in acting, do yourself a favor - see this movie. Richard Harris' performance is as good as film acting gets. His character, Bull McCabe, is not a man so much as a force of nature. In the opening sequence, he and his son, Tadgh, who is 30ish to Bull's sixty-something, are carrying heavy loads of seaweed from the ocean back to their farm. Bull casually strolls along, seemingly without effort, while Tadgh struggles and stops periodically to rest. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the story. No one in the village ever opposes Bull - it would be futile, as well as unwise. But when the land his family has tended for generations as tenant farmers is purchased by an American bent on developing it, Bull must confront something he cannot defeat with will and sinew - progress.
"The Field" is a study of a very specific time and place, with plot developments that seem lifted straight out of the Old Testament. Sheridan does an excellent job of opening up the story, which was adapted from a stage play. The action takes place all over the village and surrounding areas. The cast is composed of Irish and English actors (except for - ahem - 'The American'), which really gives the film a strong sense of authenticity. Each character has a story, and the gradual unfolding of the various conflicts and secrets builds an ominous sense of impending disaster.
John Hurt gives another in a long line of outstanding performances, but this film belongs to Harris. The only thing that keeps it from becoming an all-time classic is Tom Berenger. We get no sense that he wants the field for any reason other than the script requires him to, and it seems that director Jim Sheridan knew it. When a central character (Berenger) in a film delivers his most important dialogue FACING AWAY FROM THE CAMERA (looking out a window), it is the directorial equivalent of punting. Even so, Berenger is not in enough scenes to ruin the movie. It is just that it could have been so much better if he brought something to the part that could match up with Harris' primal force.
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