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Bloody Sunday (R)
Paramount Classics
Official Site
Director: Paul Greengrass
Producers: Arthur Lappin & Mark Redhead
Written by: Paul Greengrass
Cast: James Nesbitt, Allan Gildea, Gerard Crossan, Mary Moulds, Carmel McCallion, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell

Rating: out of 5

ďAnd the battleís just begun/Thereís many lost, but tell me who has wonÖĒóSunday Bloody Sunday

I canít stand U2. Never have, never will. But I would in no way argue that their 1990 hit ďSunday Bloody SundayĒ wasnít a masterpiece. It combines the rage of wronged countrymen with the regret of failed revolutionaries, creating not so much a song as a hymn of memorial. It embodies the loss suffered on that Sunday in 1972 with the emotion and weight it deserves.

The same can be said for Bloody Sunday, an amazing new film that recreates January 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland. Directed and written by Greengrass with an incredibly assured perspective and shot ultra-realistically with handheld cameras, Bloody Sunday doesnít just reenact that day; it relives it. Greengrassís screenplay feels completely improvised, helped along by a group of incredible actors who fill the screen and speak the words as naturally as Iíve ever seen in a film. Every single moment feels unfailingly authentic; Greengrass takes no easy ways out, never gives in to sappiness where a more crowd-pleasing director might. The staging of events eventually achieves a dreadful inevitability, and you feel like youíre right alongside the characters as their world is torn out from under them and they struggle to deal in a rapidly collapsing environment where the moment is the moment and you may not get another.

If you donít know the story surrounding Bloody Sunday, it goes thus: Ivan Cooper (Nesbitt), an Irish member of Parliament, has organized a peaceful march to protest Britainís policy of imprisoning suspected criminals without a proper trial. Whatís at stake, though, is far bigger than such a specific cause: If they donít do this, then the British will have the freedom to stomp all over their civil rights, in effect creating what could best be called an imperialistic tyranny. During their march, British troops mobilize for crowd control, and, in a moment staged in the film as basically the beginning of chaos and the end of God, open fire on the Irish marchers, eventually killing 13 and wounding 14 others. Being interviewed after the massacre, the soldiers maintain that the marchers, many of whom they claimed were IRA members, shot at them first and planned on using nail bombs against them (in a chilling scene, British troops plant some of these bombs on one of the marchers, who lies dead in the back seat of a car).

Itís an amazing story, illustrating the irrationality of conflict and the tragedy of being unprepared for the worst. Cooper cites the examples of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi, but what he doesnít realize is that, unlike them, he doesnít have the control he thinks he does. Minutes build up, signaling whatís to come, but no one sees it until itís too late. The cuts in the film are jarring, simply fading to black for a second between scenes and jump-cutting within scenes. This choppiness serves the film well, because it emphasizes the segmentation of time leading up to whatís in store, how each moment is part of the chain of events that will end when peace is no longer enough. When this happens, when all the tension and the frustration come to a head in the filmís second hour, one thing remains in the air: the injustice of having to die for what you believe in, instead of just being able to believe. Bloody Sunday doesnít see martyrdom as much of an honor in this case. It just wishes it didnít have to come to that.

óCole Sowell



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