Sunday, February 15, 2015

QUEEN AND COUNTRY: His current retrospective ends, and the new John Boorman film arrives

There are but a few days left to see on the big screen at New York City's Film Forum a selection of the work of British filmmaker John Boorman, an auteur whose films are always worth seeing (often the least regarded of which -- Zardoz, The Tiger's Tail -- offer the most surprising rewards). One of Boorman's most popular films, and the one that brought him the largest arthouse acclaim, as well as a bunch of Oscar nominations and BAFTA awards (Deliverance brought him his first batch of Oscar noms and mainstream popularity), was 1987's Hope and Glory. Now, nearly three decades later, arrives the sequel-of-sorts to that earlier biographical film that covered the filmmaker's days as a child during World War II. This new one, QUEEN AND COUNTRY, tackles the character's young manhood in the British military during the Korean War.

What a pleasure and a joy this new film is! Wonderfully funny, gorgeous to view (the period details are scrumptious and on-mark) and finally quite moving, too, Queen and Country proves there is still immense life and talent to this now 82-year-old filmmaker. The love -- of family, of country (with an often ironic and telling eye) and of the men and women in his life -- that Mr. Boorman (shown at right) conjures here is likely to find a hugely empathetic audience in English-speaking countries, surely, and perhaps far beyond those borders, as well.

Utterly accessible yet absolutely specific in its grasp of details concerning time, place and person, the movie's great achievement -- as is so often Boorman's too -- lies in how it shows us life in its rich comic/sad complexities and its characters as complicated and problemed people who are sometimes simply impossible to set right.

The filmmaker's beautiful tapestry includes his stand-in, Bill Rohan, wonderfully played by Callum Turner (above) and his best pal Percy Hapgood (a firecracker performance by Caleb Landry Jones, below).

Around these two revolve the rest of the wonderful cast of oddball, important characters -- from the beautiful, troubled young woman Bill encounters one evening at a concert (Tamsin Egerton, below)

to the discipline-crazed officer and bête noire of the boys, Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis, below center, in yet another of his amazing, scary and deeply-felt performances)

to the no-one-does-more-with-less Richard E. Grant (below) as the superior officer, Major Cross

and a simply terrific performance from Pat Shortt (below), as the company's supreme grifter, Redmond, a role that even Phil Silvers' Sergeant Bilko might envy.

Add to this a first-class (though not upper class) funny and disparate family for Bill, and you have the makings of a hugely memorable hit that should delight arthouse audiences (perhaps into repeated viewings) before moving into even some mainstream venues, too.

The scene of that family (and friend) watching the coronation of the current Queen Elizabeth on their new television set -- a similar scene occurred in the little-seen (you really ought to) but excellent remake of The Scapegoat -- and who they suddenly see in the background provides yet another surprising twist and jolt to this splendid movie.

How it all comes together -- anything but perfectly, but believably and with a fine mixture of revelation and rue -- makes for one of the year's loveliest movie gifts. And one that just might find itself in memory when it comes time for next year's flock of awards-giving. (The movie ends, by the way, with a perfectly delightful nod to the career that will come.)

Meanwhile, Queen and Country -- via BBC Worldwide North America and running a never-too-lengthy 115 minutes -- gets its U.S. theatrical premiere this Wednesday, February 18, at NYC's Film Forum and in Los Angeles the following Friday, February 27 at Laemmle's Royal, Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5. In the weeks to come the film will open across the country in most major cities. To see the entire list of playdates, with cities and theaters, simply click here.  (To view the schedule for the remaining Boorman films in the current Film Forum retrospective, click here.)

No comments: