In this sequel to Hope and Glory (1987), Bill Rohan has grown up and is drafted into the army, where he and his eccentric best mate, Percy, battle their snooty superiors on the base and look for love in town.
The hilarious highlight of John Boorman's HOPE AND GLORY (1987), nominated for 5 Oscars: 9-year-old Bill Rohan rejoices in the destruction of his school by an errant Luftwaffe bomb. QUEEN AND COUNTRY picks up the story nearly a decade later as Bill (Boorman's alter-ego) begins basic training in the early Fifties, during the Korean War. Bill is joined by a trouble-making army mate, Percy. They never get near Korea, but engage in a constant battle of wits with the Catch-22-worthy, Sgt. Major Bradley. Richard E. Grant is their superior, the very, very, infinitely put-upon, aptly-named Major Cross. Written by
Karen Cooper, Director, Film Forum
A sweet and ultimately satisfying post-war drama, it avoids the clichés that plague some war films to deliver a solid experience.
The post-war period often seems like a bit of a black hole for films. Aside from the films made at the time which dealt with the issues the population faced, most notably Italian Neorealism, contemporary films prefer to explore the actual conflict themselves. More drama is to be found there. But while World War II was 'the' war, the conflict never really stopped, and Britain still had mandatory military service at the age of 18, with deployment to Korea for their civil war a real proposition. This is what John Boorman focuses on for what is probably his final film, and a sequel to his most famous work, the 1987 mildly autobiographical piece Hope And Glory.
We are told the story of Bill, a young boy in the first film. He has grown up into quite the strapping young fellow, and he received his notice for mandatory army service. There he quickly befriends Percy, and a bond forms. But this bond is hardly the centre of the film. It stretches far beyond that, as Bill deals with the army, love and his family. This is all well paced handled by Boorman, who is probably best known, aside from Hope And Glory, for directing Deliverance.
The acting is quite spotty on a case by case basis, Callum Turner does very well as the protagonist Bill Rohan, but you can't help but think he was constantly being overshadowed by a couple of doses of overacting. Being manic or excitable is all well and good, but there occasions where people were channelling their inner Joker or Harley Quinn. On the subject of acting, David Thewlis (of Harry Potter fame) is present and he is phenomenal, one of my favourite acting performances of the year.
Furthermore, the script isn't perfect either. There were too many logical inconsistencies, especially early on, where background character information is introduced in very lazy ways, usually dialogue. It's frustrating to see two characters talking to each other about things they clearly already know, and that it's only for the audience's benefit.
What is best about the film is that it tells the story of war really well. This was something a film like Fury really fell short at, relying on clichés to tell a heroic story. Even though there are very few scenes of combat, Queen And Country definitely gets right what Fury got wrong, showing the horrors of war, what it does to people and how anyone can be a victim or a casualty. That goes a long way in my book.
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