Monday, 3 August 2015

Queen and Country:NZFF Review

Queen and Country: NZFF Review

Director John Boorman's sequel to the 1987 film Hope and Glory is a perhaps slight comic memoir of a Britain in the 1950s.

With the end of World War II in the rear view mirror and a potential conflict in Korea beckoning, Boorman chooses to centre on a Home Counties barracks and the daily fight of two conscripts railing against the futility of the war machine.

Those conscripts are the dashingly charming Bill (Callum Turner) and his pal, the tightly wound Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) and their antagonist is Sgt Major Bradley (David Thewlis), an officious prig of an army type, who follows everything according to the code and never deviates from it, much to the annoyance of all caught in his firing line. But while life in the barracks is claustrophobic, a world outside hints at love and lust for both....

Queen and Country plays more light and comic, a sort of mix of It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Dad's Army combined with a slyly British cocking-a-snook at the futility of authority that was so prevalent in the likes of the Lister/ Rimmer dynamic in Red Dwarf, Monty Python and Yes Minister.

But underneath the veneer of black comedy, there's a black vein of inevitable sadness coursing through this film's veins. It's a taciturn expression of the fragility of the nation in light of the conflicts that have shaped the world and its inhabitants.

Occasionally though Queen and Country feels like the sadness is over-bearing, lurking as it does in the background - from Bill's sister (Vanessa Kirby) whose marriage is falling apart to his love interest Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton) whose eyes hint at tragedy through to Landry Jones' occasionally OTT acting as Percy, everyone is damaged.

Some of the threads aren't neatly pulled together in this post-war tapestry and some of the resolution can be seen with a distinctive predictability, but Queen and Country works more as a comedy a la Blackadder than a dramatic re-fashioning of events in the world. Ultimately though the mismatched tone of comedy and tragedy don't quite mesh as well as they should and Queen and Country ends up being a curio of British army mores and sensibilities rather than a film with a profound insight into those who fought the class system in the wake of the war.

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