The events before, during and after the events of January 30th 1972 from the point of view of Leo Young who was involved in the Civil Rights march leading to the conflict and whose brother was killed during the day.
Let me nail my politics to the mast before I start - I don't want anyone to take my comments on this film as me defending my own. I am a Northern Ireland Protestant and have lived there for the vast majority of my life. I believe that on Bloody Sunday that innocent people were killed and that the British Army used a level of force inappropriate to the level of threat posed. I believe that events escalated out of control and that the result was the Army panicking and shooting unarmed innocents. There - that's what I think.
I watched this expecting a slight bias as I had read in the papers that McGovern had made it that way. However I was not prepared for the sickening level of bias that this film has. The legend at the front of the film states that `this drama is based entirely on fact'. However the way it is told is clumsy, lazy and slanted. McGovern totally ignores any findings of the 1970's enquiry that he doesn't like - he claims to have used eyewitness accounts, however he treats some like gospel and mocks the accounts of the military or anyone else he doesn't like. Scenes are put together to highlight lies - one scene of several soldiers reporting ammo use -`19,22,4' etc - is immediately followed by a scene of General Ford telling a news crew that only 3 shots were fired. That is fair enough as it is clearly untrue but this trick is used in many other situations. Most notably grieving catholic families are contrasted with scenes of soldiers drinking and celebrating - boasting about shooting women and children etc. You get his point but it is like having him standing in your front room shouting his side at you for 2 hours.
Does McGovern stop with the idea that perhaps things got out of hand leading to this tragedy? No - instead he backs it up with images of soldiers preparing themselves for battle - pledging to kill the `Fenian Bastards'. The actual action sees them aiming (we see their POV) for targets who clearly have their hands up, shouting to a house wife that her white coat `makes a great target' and generally aware that they are calmly and carefully picking off unarmed civilians. He even opens the film with General Ford writing a memo that recommends that Londonderry's hooligan element being rounded up and shot. Is this enough for McGovern? Is he happy that it can be blamed on soldiers who wanted to kill and did? Is he hell!
He wants us to believe that the whole thing was planned at a high level - in the first 15 minutes we have another scene where police are removed and the military provide the support. When the man in charge complains that this is unnecessary he is told in a menacing tone that it `came from a high level' - this scene could have come straight from the X-files with the smoking man. Another scene to back this up appears to have the Prime Minister himself OK'ing a cover-up - having sent Lord Widgery to carry out an enquiry he reminds him that the battle in N. Ireland is not just political but `a propaganda war'. McGovern wants us to believe that this was not just planned by the military but the following cover up was actioned from the highest office.
The whole cast is set out to help make his point. There isn't a bad or even cheeky Catholic in the whole film - Ciaran McMenamin is boyishly good-looking (quite like Chris O'Donnell) and is just one of the many cast as saints. The soldiers are all cast as thugs with murder on their mind - there is one good one and he is only there so that his `true' evidence can be rejected from the enquiry. Eccleston is cast as General Ford in order to give the role a smiling, smirking menace and he does.
Despite the fact that he has based this drama on fact - the IRA never get a mention. We are treated to two scenes where people return fire on the soldiers (maybe 4/5 shots at most). However both these scenes are just disorganised people who get hold of weapons - and the film is sure that we see the catholic civilians either disarm them or drive them away. In case you don't know this action happened in and around the area known as Free Derry. Free Derry was a military no-go area that was patrolled and guarded by armed members of the IRA. McGovern strangely doesn't mention this fact - in fact we don't see it at all. Where did these men go, why did this huge armed presence just seem to vanish on that day? Does McGovern believe that they just went on holiday for that weekend? The fact that he just ignores their impact just demonstrates how blinded by his sources he is.
As a drama this fails because it is so one-sided - Catholics are all perfect, while all the soldiers are thugs who just want to kill the `Fenians'. Please, let me plead with you - if you watch this please make sure this is not where you get your facts from. Please use this drama as one view point, read other books, see other dramas to get a full picture then make your own mind up.
There's no doubting the level of research he put into this but it is a sickening one sided piece of propaganda masquerading as a factual drama. McGovern treats his catholic sources as if every word was the gospel truth but mocks soldiers at every step of the way. What happened on that day was a terrible tragedy. However innocent people die every single day in Northern Ireland. This film will not help either communities make peace - if anything it will stir up republican anti-British sentiment. A disgraceful sham of a docu-drama.
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