Rating: Not Rated but could be R for relentless brutality and violence
Run Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Human and political drama makes
dramatic bedfellows in Ken Loach’s
turns in a typically smart performance as idealistic doctor Damien O’Donovan
who is leaving his sleepy Irish village to take work at a
A run-in with British “peacekeeping” troops, aka the Black and Tans, alters the landscape for good. During a routine inspection the contentious Brits take offense at the Irish’s courageous calm and beat one of Damien’s chums to death. An act, among others, that inspires Damien to chuck his career path and enlist in a guerilla group that ultimately evolves into the Irish Republican Army.
Damien’s activist brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) is fronting the militant faction; one of many players who endures Loach’s relentless scenes of gross brutality; beatings, fingernail torture, point-blank shootings, etc.
Loach doesn’t miss a beat in establishing a moral high ground in the struggle for independence; the Irish are victims and we suffer alongside them by virtue of lengthy stretches of dark dialogue and ethical indignities meant to arouse dread and inspire compassion.
The British troops are disappointingly one-note, not a hair of empathy on their haughty heads as they lord British rule over their humiliated country cousins.
That said, Loach still manages to craft a noble historical valentine to the gracious Gaels; alternately winsome and sadistic but always with an eye on the prize: freedom.