Michael Collins–After You See It

                                                                                                                                          3:13 a.m.   6/25/26/05

Step into my brain as I watch Michael Collins. Hm. There are no opening credits. That’s kind of cool. Boy, they really jump right into the action, don’t they? There’s Liam Neeson looking so formidable in his uniform. There’s Aidan Quinn! Wait a minute, there’s Aidan Quinn dying. Wow. They killed him off early on. Isn’t he a major character? Wait, there’s Jonathan Rhys-Meyers looking impossibly gorgeous for a supposed ruffian. I didn’t know he was in the movie. Cool. Oooh, it’s Alan looking so forlorn. Now he’s weeping.  Am I missing something? Wait, no, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is going to ambush Liam Neeson. Liam! How can you be so gullible? Ian Hart! How can you let him? Oh, shit! Jonathan just shot Liam!

Oh, I get it. I’m watching the wrong side. See, I had looked at both sides of the disc before starting as this is one of those discs that has two sides. One looked pretty much like the other, so I popped in the disc assuming that it didn’t matter. Oh, how it did. I flip the disc over and hey, the beginning! It actually doesn’t matter that I watched the ending first because the first thing I see on this side is Joe (Hart. By the way, how good is he that I didn’t recognize him at all as Professor Quirrell from the first Harry Potter series) telling Kitty (Julia Roberts) why Collins (Neeson) died. Once that’s done, we’re off and running.

This movie is over two hours long. I put off watching it as it’s a ‘serious’ movie. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, but I had to watch it because Alan Rickman is in it. I don’t like Julia Roberts, so I could only hope her role was limited. When Stephen Rea pops up, well I’m a happy woman. He’s incredible in The Crying Game, and he’s very underrated here in the States. In this movie, he plays Detective Ned Broy, a G-man for the Castle who becomes converted after hearing Collins give many speeches. Broy gives Collins as much information as possible, knowing that it’ll be his neck if his treachery is discovered.

This movie is jammed pack with action and good acting by Neeson and Quinn as Harry Bolan, Collins’s best friend who later breaks away. They even fight over the same girl, Kitty, who needn’t be in the movie at all. Julia Roberts can’t do an Irish accent worth a damn, and her part of the story doesn’t add anything to the overall gestalt. I agree with one reviewer who says the love triangle is tired, and another reviewer commented that it got blown way out of proportion. By the way, there isn’t a need for a love story in every movie. This epic tale would have been far stronger without the love story, but that’s just my humble opinion.

Back to good acting. Stephen Rea is exquisite as the tortured detective. He knows what he’s doing is right, but it eats at him every day. Also, it’s painful to watch him interact with his British superior when the latter purposely mispronounces his name ‘boy’. I got the feeling that Broy would have let that go before, most likely laughing with the superior. I would state the superior’s name, but I don’t remember it. None of the names on IMDB.com is ringing a bell, either. Sorry. Oh! I think I found it. I think it’s Charles Dance as Soames. If not, sue me. Anyway, this time, Broy cannot swallow the indignation and corrects his superior. It’s enough to make Soames suspicious. Huh. Charles Dance was in Gosford Park. I don’t remember him, but I didn’t like the movie so I blocked out most of it. He’s handsome, though. Anyway, back to the review.

Alan Rickman, I am sorry to say, struggles to keep the Irish accent going. While he is of Irish descent, his English diction peeks through every now and then. He does a good job with the physicality of the part of Eamon de Valera, and his precision is manner and word is excellent. However, his accent goes in and out, sometimes more British than Irish. He is stirring in his speech near the end, though, and his acting is stalwartly otherwise, so I suppose I can give him somewhat of a mulligan on the accent. Well, no, I can’t. It is distracting. Quinn does a better job with it, and he’s American, for god’s sake! Then again, I’ve seen more of Alan’s work than Quinn’s, so I’m probably more apt to notice when Alan’s natural accent slips through.

One reviewer on IMDB.com complained that Neil Jordan, the director took liberties and was biased in his presentation. She didn’t want people to think this was ‘the truth’ about the turbulent history of Ireland and the start of the IRA. She also criticizes the accents of pretty much everybody in the movie, including Neeson. She may be right. In fact, she probably is. You know what? I don’t care. This isn’t a documentary. This doesn’t claim to be a documentary. Wait, I should check that before I open my big mouth. Nope. Not a documentary. History, yes, but not a documentary. That means Neil Jordan is allowed to present the story however he damn well wants to and to take as many liberties with it as he likes. I don’t take this as truth but simply one man’s portrait of Michael Collins. I applaud his sweeping vision, even though there are rough patches here and there. I do sympathize about the accent thing, but it doesn’t bother me because, obviously, I can’t tell the difference.

This movie whizzes right along. There isn’t a second to breathe. Never has two hours felt like fifteen minutes before. However, there are a few times the mind wanders, most notably when Julia Roberts is on screen. The first time we see her, Collins is immediately smitten with her as is Harry. She dates Harry for awhile but eventually falls for Collins. Apparently, all it takes to fall in love are meaningful looks and proximity. That whole subplot could have been excised without harming the film in the slightest. I find it humorous that Julia Roberts is the second name listed when she’s so minor in the film. The scene where she’s trying on her wedding dress while Mick gets gunned down? Trite at best. Another thing that doesn’t work-the music. Most of it is gorgeous-I enjoy the Sinead O’Conner song at the end, but much of the music is intrusive. When I’m focusing on the music instead of the movie-unless it’s to notice how great the cellos sound-then the music is too much. Fortunately, there is not music all the time or I would go mad.

I appreciate this film for not making it one-sided. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it easy to sympathize with most people in this movie. The IRA for being desperate to take their freedom at any cost. The Brits who live there because how the hell are they supposed to know any better? The Irish who work for/with the Brits because one has to survive somehow. The scenes in which the IRA take out the British who’ve come to kill them are haunting. In theory, I can understand the need to eradicate the enemy. In practice, they are still human beings. I also applaud Jordan for making the killings as realistic as possible. The violence in this movie is not for titillation or thrills. It’s grim and disturbing as it should be. To show Collins as being torn apart by the violence is a good decision as well. It’d be all-too-easy to portray him as either a blameless hero or a raving lunatic. It takes more guts to show him as a deeply-flawed man who is just trying to do what he thinks is best for his country.

This is a sobering movie with a lot of meat in it. The little fat that does exist-yes, Julia, I’m calling you fat-is tolerable. Oh, there is one scene where Collins, Kitty and Harry are taking a night to enjoy life for a change. Joe rushes in to tell them that Britain has agreed to a truce. I kept thinking how different the movie would feel if it ended right there. I’m glad it didn’t, though, as it would have left out the fascinating break between de Valera and Collins. The tragedy of allies who then declare themselves foes is a universal theme, but a sad one, nonetheless.

I didn’t expect to like this movie, and I didn’t, per se. Rather, I didn’t enjoy it. I appreciate it and am glad that I watched it. It’s a good movie with a few outstanding actors. The acting is quite good overall, and I got to see Alan Rickman. I recommend this for your Netflix Queue, unless you are one of those people who can’t bear their truth to be more like fiction.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.