After fourteen years in prison for terrorist activities, Danny Flynn is released and returns to his community. Having blanked the IRA members in the jail with him Danny is not very popular but, since he didn't name names, is allowed to live when he comes out. Looking to get past the violence that stole over a decade of his life, Danny reopens his former boxing gym within a local community centre so that he can give the youth of the area something other than hatred and violence. However the discovery of Semtex in the community centre and his insistence that the gym is a non-sectarian venue brings him into direct conflict with the local members of the army council of Sinn Fein/IRA.
Perhaps I should not have watched this film today but it has been sitting on my "to watch" list for ages and I finally got round to it. You say, today the IRA issued a statement saying that the British and Irish governments "should not underestimate the seriousness of the situation" the situation being them refusing to give up guns now that the police, the Irish government and the British government all believe that the IRA (while on ceasefire and supposedly pursuing peace) carried out the biggest robbery of recent memory in Christmas 2004. Now I do not know for sure whether they did or not but I do believe that all terrorist groups (and the political parties that represent them) should be ejected from government given that they are all (Republican and Loyalist) still involved in violence, beatings and crime. So this film was even more impacting to me because it was released at a time when I had just left Northern Ireland to live in England and at the time peace looked possible it is typical that the terrorist groups refuse to do anything unless it is on their terms (even a neutral would have to admit that the British government has bent over backwards to get them involved).
Anyway, perhaps this film is the perfect vehicle to watch on such a night because, unlike many films about Northern Ireland, it doesn't have a bias one way or the other, but rather looks at the "ordinary" people who try to deal with the struggle and, like many films on this subject it gets the mood right even if the material is not that hot. By "mood" or "tone" I mean that this film has little hope within it and is not for viewers who are caught up in the current US assurances that terrorism is something that is being beaten by the use of weapons. Watching it on this day I can say that the portrayal of "the people" as keen to see it all settled in a fair way with both groups of terrorists surrendering their weapons, but the whole thing is confused by those who (like today) refuse to give up the gun while still hoping to be a "proper" government. However, outside of this the material is surprisingly weak. Northern Ireland in the mid-nineties didn't quite look like this and many aspects of the story are simplified partly to make it a easier story but partly to keep up the movie stable that parts of the IRA are actually peace-loving people who would just love to get rid of every last bullet and gun. This material is rather patronising and may annoy those who have actually lived in the conflict rather than viewed it from the mainland.
The story also involves a romance that didn't totally convince me and the usual backdrop of a man trying to get out of the situation; it isn't great but the story has enough going on to hold the attention while also showing the wider depression about the conflict. The cast try hard and they do make the film better thanks to their work. Day-Lewis is always worth a watch and, even if he is a bit self-righteous here, he is still a fine actor and his performance is better than the character he has been given. Likewise Watson seems to have been given an insight into her character that is not available to the audience via the script, however she raises the standard by her work. Cox is good but his character is impossible to buy into. Support is also good from McSorley, Fitzgerald and others.
Overall this is not a great film but it is not a bad one and I suppose Northern Ireland is a very difficult subject to tackle. The story is rather patronising at times and rather bland at others but the film does manage to get the tone right (even if the scenes are a bit OTT at times). Bush may speak with grand words but this film and today's statements from Sinn Fein/IRA show that there are no easy answers and, no matter what the will of the people is, if guns are still involved then there will never be a peace. The film captures this truth well, shame it doesn't do much else as well.
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