Bloody Sunday

"OK"

Bloody Sunday Review


A nonviolent protest march in Derry, Northern Ireland escalates into a bloodbath on January 30, 1972. Alas, this event is best known within the American pop culture lexicon as U2's sanctimonious rock ballad, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (which makes a grating appearance during the closing credits, after a movie that has nearly no music in it whatsoever). If nothing else, the new film Bloody Sunday directed by Paul Greengrass (The Theory of Flight) should be able to get a sense of the tensions that arose that fateful day between Irish protesters and British paratroopers. Told in a minute-by-minute documentary style, the story recreates the events of that morning switching back and forth between the British and Irish perspective.

It's a compelling idea, with handheld digital cameras swooping around the actors as the Derry citizens prepare for the march. It has the lived-in quality of any rally you've ever been to, with stressed-out volunteers trying to coordinate the herd. The performances are naturalistic and unshowy, with a committed performance by James Nesbitt as Protestant activist Ivan Cooper (whose everyman mug and receding hairline make him a believably workaday hero). There's a surprising lack of self-righteousness in the proceedings, for the most part fairly handling the British officers and soldiers caught up in gung-ho tension and resentment for being there in the first place. And the Irish aren't given a halo, with IRA thugs working their way through the crowd and stupid kid hooligans throwing stones during the "peaceful" march.

Cooper's exasperated reaction to the hostility around him draws our sympathy, but there's purposefully very little character development in Bloody Sunday. It's all about the incident and action. Or, at least, it feels that way during the chaotic, seemingly unscripted moments during the violent shootouts that happen at the film's midpoint. The hard-edged documentary approach, where dialogue is barely heard as the camera responds to the immediacy of the action around it, is craftily employed.

That's what has earned the movie comparisons to Battle of Algiers, but Bloody Sunday never goes far enough with that raw notion. It's compelled to give just enough narrative arcs for Ivan Cooper and a handful of others (a smug British Major General, an earnest Brigadier, and a young Irishman whose tender relationship with his girlfriend has him pegged early on as "the guy who will tragically get blown away") to make the movie feel indecisive. It wavers between slim narrative and tough documentary, and that throws it all off. There's an incomplete quality to Bloody Sunday that mars it. That haziness is compounded by irritating fades in and out of each scene, constantly stopping the movie dead in its tracks and adding a slow, lethargic quality to a movie that should be lean, fast, and uncompromising.

The situation is far more interesting than the details we learn about anyone in the film, and Greengrass could have gone further into it as a non-narrative, or as a restaging of the event that allows us to pick up Ivan Cooper and others in the crowd but doesn't make the movie about them. (Alan Clarke's Contact did this brilliantly, another film about the "Irish situation.") While it's not boring or maudlin, Bloody Sunday feels gutless and empty for not taking as strong a cinematic stance as it could. For all its noble qualities, the movie feels mediocre when it could have been razor sharp.

The history lesson continues on DVD, with two commentary tracks and two short documentaries. Very staid, but it does provide a rare inside look into the conflict.

Reviewed at the 2002 New York Film Festival

John 3:16



Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th January 2002

Box Office USA: $0.6M

Distributed by: Paramount Classics

Production compaines: Portman Entertainment Group

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 96 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Ivan Cooper, as Kevin McCorry, as Eamonn McCann, Mary Moulds as Bernadette Devlin, Carmel McCallion as Bridget Bond, as Major General Ford, as Brigadier Maclellan, as Major Steele

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.