1952, the commanding Winston Churchill was back in 10 Downing Street and war
once again entangled the Allies, this time in Korea. He may not have understood
it at the time, but the Korean War was a positive development for John Boorman,
because it eventually provided the inspiration for his follow-up to the Oscar
nominated Hope and Glory. Nine years
later, Bill Rohan commences his compulsory military service in Boorman’s Queen and Country (trailer here), which screens as
a special Film Comment presentation at
the 52nd New York Film Festival.
year old Rohan would never say the National Socialists never did anything for
him, after an errant bomb destroys his school in the end of Hope and Glory. Q&C picks up at that point, rapidly fast-forwarding to his
service years. British troops are shipping out to Korea, but through a twist of
fate, Rohan and his volatile mate Percy Hapgood are assigned to clerical duties
on the base.
this posting suits Rohan far better than the Korean Peninsula, he still has to
contend with Sergeant Major Bradley, a by-the-book stickler, who is constantly
bringing Rohan and Hapgood up before the increasingly weary Major Cross on
minor rules violations. While Hapgood and the scrounging Private Redmond plot
against the Sergeant Major, Rohan pursues an aristocratic beauty in town, whom
he will call Ophelia until she corrects him. Scandals and controversies will erupt
on the base as England prepares for the coronation of a new monarch, signifying
the beginning of a new era.
Q&C is rather episodically
structurally, Boorman really ties it all together in the closing scenes.
Clearly, the film is suffused with unabashed nostalgia, but there are also
moments of grace and beauty. It is the sequel nobody was expecting, but it
leaves us anticipating a third installment of the Rohan chronicles.
we did not realize it when Hope and Glory
was nominated for five Oscars, Rohan may now be aptly compared to Neil
Simon’s Eugene Jerome. Just as Hope and
Brighton Beach Memoirs cover their
surrogates’ formative years, Q&C and
Biloxi Blues follow their military
stints. Of course, Jerome finds success as comedy writer in Broadway Bound, whereas Rohan’s
fascination with the Shepperton film studio not far from his family’s new home
seems to foreshadow much.
the genial wise-cracking Jerome, Rohan is undeniably the blandest figure in Q&C, but that is understandable. We
always see ourselves as dullest person in our own stories. We are the workaday pluggers
and everyone else must be the cut-ups and cads. So it is with Boorman and Rohan,
played serviceably by Callum Turner. In contrast, a nearly unrecognizable David
Thewlis delivers a truly year’s best, Oscar worthy performance as the tightly
wound Sergeant Major. Although he bears the brunt of most of the film’s comedic
jibes, he also is its most potent source of pathos.
Q&C is blessed with an embarrassment
of riches when it comes to its supporting cast. Richard E. Grant is a delight
as Major Cross, doing his usual sly, sophisticated thing, except even more so. Caleb
Landry Jones’ Hapgood serves as a suitably destabilizing wild card, while Vanessa
Kirby projects the allure and world weariness one could only expect from a
young woman who had lived through the emotional travails of war.
is old fashioned, but it is wholly satisfying. It is a lovingly crafted
period production that perfectly recreates the still distressed look of
post-war Britain. It is also a pleasure to watch the accomplished ensemble
bring their humanly flawed characters to life. Enthusiastically recommended, Queen and Country screens this Tuesday
(10/7) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYFF.
Labels: British Cinema, David Thewlis, John Boorman, NYFF '14, Richard E Grant