The time between 1916 and the 1920s saw the worst of a revolt that caused the creation the IRA and heightened the fight for independence between Ireland and the crown in London. At the head of this fight, like it or not, was Michael Collins, a demagogue/saboteur/freedom fighter that lived as a hero and died a martyr.
Read it once again -- this is not Braveheart. Braveheart took place something like 600 years earlier, and just a stone's throw across the North Channel, in Scotland.
Otherwise, it's the same movie, except Neil Jordan's paean to the Irish hero leaves much to be desired by the discriminating viewer. Jordan, best known for his masterpiece The Crying Game, really seems to be falling apart these days (did you stay awake during Interview With the Vampire?). Now he's back with Michael Collins, a rambling, 138-minute epic that could have easily been cut to 90, and has its good points and its bad -- but the bad really stick out like sore thumbs.
Using more scrolling title cards than I've ever seen before, at first I thought Michael Collins was going to be a read-along. But instead of incorporating this information about Collins (Liam Neeson) into the story, Jordan tacks on the printed Michael Collins at-a-glance biography and just plugs the movie full of the same sequence over and over again. (That sequence is this: the IRA guys are asleep, then the Brits come on a raid, then the IRA guys get away just in time. Whew!)
Then there's the what-on-earth-were-you-thinking decision to put Julia Roberts in this movie as Kitty Kiernan, the woman torn between Collins and his once-best friend Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn). Seriously, my Irish accent is better than Roberts's, and I'm from Texas.
The real story of Michael Collins may be a good one -- full of intrigue, infighting with the Irish President Eamon De Valera (Alan Rickman), bloody war with the English, and a struggle to get the girl with the bad Irish accent. The problem is that Jordan tells the story like it's a history lesson, and a dull one at that. Yes, the movie's full of good acting (exception noted above), gory violence, and lavish sets (all of which are blown up by the end of the film), but it ends up being just another over-indulgent sermon by a misguided preacher.
Think of your $6.50 as an offering.
[The author of this review is not responsible for historical inaccuracies in either the film or this critique.]
After a tough day of freedom fighting, Collins, like most grown men, likes to ride bikes through the mud, wearing a suit.