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Bloody Sunday

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bloody Sunday

Starring: James Nesbitt, Nicholas Farrell
Director: Paul Greengrass
Rated: R
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Tim Pigott-Smith, Allan Gildea, Gerard McSorley, Simon Mann

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Paul Greengrass's BLOODY SUNDAY reveals the truth about the catalyst for "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. And it's not pretty. It seems that the IRA's campaign of terror that has killed hundreds (thousands?) is a consequence of the massacre of thirteen Irish Catholics by British soldiers in 1972.

Since the movie is presented in docudrama fashion, the facts feel like they can't be questioned. And indeed perhaps many or most of them are accurate. Who knows? I don't, but I'm sure my mailbox will be deluged, as usual, by people who believe that they do. What is very clear is that Paul Greengrass's one-sided documentary offers simplistic explanations to a very complex situation.

During a peace march led by Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt), chaos breaks out, and Ivan is no longer able to control the crowd. In the film's version of the events, some of the marchers launch a constant barrage of large rocks at heavily armed British soldiers, who overact and later lie about what happened. The troops use water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and, eventually, live ammunition in an attempt to control the situation. There are some armed IRA gunmen firing at the soldiers, but the film minimizes their importance. In the trailing credits, we learn that the soldiers were never disciplined for their actions, with the assumption being that they should have been. In a lecture to the TV cameras, Ivan tells the British government that the actions of their soldiers that day caused boys throughout Northern Ireland to decide to join the IRA and receive their weapons.

Stylistically, the movie is a disaster. In order to create the feeling of a documentary, handheld cameras are held shakily, and the camera operator tries his best to over-pan and over-zoom as if he were nervous that a bullet might come his way. In order to simulate the effect of documentary footage, the editor cuts to black about every thirty seconds, as if he were assembling hundreds of little bits of taped footage.

Still, even as a one-sided presentation of such a horrific part of history, BLOODY SUNDAY is captivating. As frustrated as I was by the techniques, I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. It made me wonder about what really happened and made me feel sorry for the people that died that day and for those who died in all the IRA terrorist bombings in the following decades.

BLOODY SUNDAY runs 1:50. It is rated R for "violence and language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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