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I have seen "Bloody Sunday" twice now - once on the big screen and once
on DVD - and read Don Mullen's book, "Eyewitness Bloody Sunday." This movie
is a very realistic depiction of the defining moment of the "troubles" in
Northern Ireland. The hand-held cameras and grainy film style make it feel
more like a documentary than a movie, which of course is the intent. As
another reviewer has mentioned, the acting is very natural throughout. It
does take some time to get started, but once the the shooting starts it hits
the viewer like a sledgehammer. Very powerful.
The film jumps so frequently from scene to scene that at times it is distracting, though I was much less annoyed by this the second time around. And, having seen it once with and once without subtitles, I must say that although the subtitles (optional on the DVD) are intrusive they are quite welcome. I love the Irish accent but at times it can be difficult for me to decipher,and much of the dialogue in the movie is muted. It was good to know what was being said.
As for the objectivity, of course the movie is slanted - so was the situation. But it is not unreasonably slanted. The British are not shown as one-dimensional demons - in particular, Nicholas Farrell does a great job of conveying Brigadier Mclellan's ambiguity and even disapproval of the course taken against his wishes by the supposed "Observer," Maj. Gen. Ford (who, if the movie has a villain, is the prime candidate.) At one point early on several Paras are discussing the day's prospects, and reveal how tired they are of being harassed, shot at and otherwise abused by the native population. This makes the day's events more understandable. This does not EXCUSE the cold-blooded gunning down of 27 people - there is no excuse for that - but at least one can see a contributing factor. And protesters are shown, once or twice, firing back. (The key here is firing BACK - evidence indicates that no marchers fired until the first two protesters were wounded. And those scattered few that attempted return fire were quickly dissuaded by their countrymen. Later in the day the IRA did go into action, but not until after the bloodletting in Bogside was over with.) Ivan Cooper's (James Nesbitt) words at the close of the film were shown to be all too true in the years since the actual incident. The IRA was on unsteady legs at the time, but has never lacked support since January 30, 1972.
The film is a powerful object lesson concerning the misuse of force, and one that governments everywhere - including my own country, the United States - should take to heart. It has a few flaws, but I think deserves the awards it has received. 8/10 points.
"Bloody Sunday" is a very startling, cinema-verite recreation of a very
specific date (January 30, 1972), in a very specific place (Derry,
Ireland) of an event that for the Irish became "our Sharpeville."
But for an American audience with no benefit of subtitles for the brogues and working class Brit accents, no explanations outside of eventual context for lingo and slang (it took me awhile to keep track of "provos" vs "paras"), the quasi-documentary, in-your-face approach takes on a tragic universality.
It could be part of a Cassandra trilogy with `Black Hawk Down' and `No Man's Land' about why military should not be in charge in urban strife, whether as "peacekeepers" or in civil wars or regime changes, no matter how heinous the regime to be changed. A lesson for the Baghdad invasion planners?
Cities are complicated social ecologies, and the film shows a great diversity of attitudes and pressures on all sides, managing to be both clinical in meticulous detail and visceral in shocking impact. The film is probably not objective about the British (I don't think it's a coincidence that the imperious Brit "observer" who takes repugnant charge is played by Tim Pigott-Smith who was a similar colonialist in `The Jewel in the Crown.") A central universal image becomes the awesome power of rock-throwing, unemployed teen-age boys to spark war.
The liberals in the middle, clinging to dreams of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and fair community relations, are morally destroyed over the course of a few hours and the extremists with guns on both sides feed on each other in perpetual destruction like the ouroboros image of the snake eating itself. I kept feeling I missed the exact flash point in a wandering attention moment and wanted to immediately re-watch it to see if I could track the gotcha! moment when escalation could have been prevented, so I look forward to this being available on video tape.
But the film does clearly show that it was attitudes that created the violent outcome and consequent government non-investigation, as we see in so many police situations. Once soldiers enter a city it is a police situation with all those complexities.
I know James Nesbitt primarily from frothy Irish comedies, like `BallykissAngel,' so his staggering portrayal of the M.P. in the middle is a revelation, as he goes from planning a civil rights march to pleading with his girlfriend to physical heroism to a break-down in shock.
The version of the titular U2 song played out at the end, running well past the credits finish, is a moving, live, passionate audience sing-along where Bono shouts out other locales that have experienced similar situations to emphasize the universality.
I saw this film about 2 years ago, and was extremely impressed with the realism of the film.Having served with the British Army in Northern Ireland many years later I found the atmosphere and the general appearance and manner of the Paras extremely accurate, as I have seen many films about Ireland when trying to portray British soldiers they unfortunately could of done a little better. I consider myself to be open minded and understood and sympathized with the local catholic population during these events as this is or was pretty much how things are with regards to the catholic population in Northern Ireland.For me, the main good points were that the film was made in a documentary style in which the facts were shown in a straight to the point manner without any fancy computer effects or handsome faces portraying the main players. well done to the production team !!!!
'Bloody Sunday' is, if nothing else, a very powerful film and,
depending on which side you're on ideologically, can move you to
tears or incite you with rage. Is this film an accurate depiction of
the days events? I personally can't say for certain. Having read
enough contemporary Irish history, including Don Mullan's
"Eyewitness Bloody Sunday", I can say that both sides of the
conflict in Northern Ireland can conduct some very shady
operations and dealings when the moment suits them. A lot of
people have asked "Where was the IRA in this "no-go zone" that
they controlled?" Well according to the book they had been asked
by NICRA (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association) to remain at
the Creggan Estate. Cooper and the rest of NICRA knew that the
march was banned and they didn't need the Provos to cause
anymore trouble. Also, at that point the Provos were at a nadir of
sorts in terms of numbers and support. There was a lot of hope
placed in the Civil Rights movement, and Bloody Sunday crushed
all chances of it really succeeding. The operation conducted by 1
Para was, I can only hope, a "grab & snatch" operation gone
terribly, terribly wrong.
I can only surmise that out of the some 10,000 people in the
march (not a few hundred as listed in other reviews) some were
either in the IRA if not most definitely IRA sympathisers. Do I
believe most of the marchers that were killed to be innocent
civilians? Yes. Should the "young hooligans" have thrown stones
at the RUC & British Armed Forces? Probably not. Did the IRA
shoot first or did 1 Para? I doubt that with all the confusion going
on, between CS gas & rubber bullets being fired anyone can tell
for certain. I don't think that the Widgery Report was anywhere
near right, or the current Saville Inquiry will get it 100% right either.
But these opinions are coming from a remove of 30 years and a
pretty large ocean.
As for the film itself. i liked it. James Nesbit gave a career defining
performance as far as I'm concerned, going from the height of one
emotion to the absolute depths of another. The Gerry Donaghy
character's accent was a little thick, to say the least. However he
played a good victim with Republican feelings. The jerky handheld
camera, which people either love or hate, worked well in this
movie. It gave a real sense of being "in the moment." Long story
short I'd give this film 3 1/2 stars out of 4.
being from belfast, i have an all too familiar recollection of this and
many other tragic events.
being born protestant, i have little use for the cowardly, yet brutal and malicious, mutation of the provisional ira; under the helm of gerry addams.
being born sentient, i have little use for the fire and brimstone polarisations; counterspin and half-truths of ian paisley.
being born human, i have empathy for the slain.
the bloody Sunday massacre in derry, was a tragic testament to man's blood-lust, fueled by fear and adrenaline. the events depicted in the movie "bloody Sunday," provide an arresting portrayal of a tacitly monumental aspect of modern ulster history. the portrayals of the people and the events maintain an objective testimony toward a tragedy that is both sobering and inexcusable.
"bloody Sunday" takes no sides, and distributes no blame. it simply reenacts the events as they were recorded, and lets the viewer make his or her own decisions.
if you are familiar with the conflict; if you are distressed by man's inhumanity unto himself; if you are simply interested in a detached account of history; this is an important film to see.
Although initially difficult to get into, Bloody Sunday proved worthwhile
persevering, as the latter half puts the viewer in the carnage.
The acting, especially James Nesbit is excellent, the recreation of the mood is superb although it was obvious with the constant close ups that there was very little budget to recreate the scenery. The geography was never explained and therefore would leave a viewer without prior knowledge of the area disorientated.
The documentary suffered from not being able to set the scene, a lot had happened in the week prior to the Civil Rights march that put both the participants and the security forces on edge and made the advance more significant. The question of why the Paras were sent to Derry were never fully explored.
Overall it was flawless recreation of events from the point of view taken by the film makers on this particular incident. It is worth noting that this is based on the Irish Governments review of the Widgery report into Bloody Sunday. (NB the Widgery report is mostly considered by nationalists to be a white wash)
Normally I don't enjoy the handheld documentary style films, as they tend to induce waves of nausea, but Bloody Sunday had me riveted from the word go. That we already know how it's going to end is irrelevant, the pressure building on the day of the march is almost unbearable. Though there's been criticism that the film is slanted towards the republican point of view, I found it balanced, even in the depiction of the soldiers and officers. Everybody certainly looked the part and I went away feeling some sympathy for both sides. Given the close quarters and inflammatory nature of the conflict, it's amazing that bloodbaths like this (soldiers blasting civilians) haven't happened more often in Northern Ireland. It's only now, that retired soldiers have broken ranks and talked about what actually happened, that a film like this can see the light of day.
A very well done movie. I found it to be a very factual and a very
frank account of a terrible time in Irish/British history.
When compared to other books and materials I have read about the account in the past few years, I would have to say it was probably about as accurate as it could be. Of course we don't hear the exact language that was used, especially by British commanders during that time, but I think the movie gives a very likely occurrence of what happened behind closed doors.
Soldiers that were allowed to speak up, many years after the fact, have themselves, shed light onto what happened during that time.
As many of the previous commenters have pointed out, this is a very
and well acted film about a shameful day in British history. However,
documentary style film-making style means that factual omissions and
implications have greater impact than in a film that doesnt purport to be
A couple of the previous comments have stated that Bloody Sunday was the start of the 'Armed Struggle'. In fact, the hardline Provisional IRA split from the Official IRA in 1970, 2 years before Bloody Sunday - this was the start of the resumption of IRA military operations. 200 soldiers, policemen and civilians were murdered in 1970-1, so the soldiers would indeed have been scared about being shot, and would also have wanted to 'strike back'. I didn't think that these motivations were portrayed in the film, and other than the historical omissions this is the only real weakness of the film which i would recommend to anyone irrespective of their own opinions on Northern Ireland.
Naive or not, the film version of Bloody Sunday couldn't do anything else
but show the pandemoneum and confusion of a massacre of many innocent
people. This confusion was shown on both sides. An army of young men
thrown into a situation which they didn't understand. A people of a City
riddled with gerrymandering and oppression.
The film showed stones being answered by guns and gas. As a British citizen I was moved and shocked. The film brought to life the many books i've read on the subject. It didn't point blame. It was never shown in the film who fired first but it showed that both sides fired. It documented how 13 people protesting for civil rights (majority of them children) were gunned down in cold blood by a 'peace keeping' security force. The bodies are the evidence, their memory is the legacy.
This film highlights the importance of sensitivity when approaching the dark days of our history. It succeeds where so many films fail by showing that no good can come from such events. A sterling performance from James Nesbitt shows that he is a versatile actor not afraid of approaching difficult and controversial roles. Perhaps we should forget the bickering and respect this for what it is; a stylistically impressive and well acted movie.
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