on April 27, 2003
"Bloody Sunday" is a remarkable and powerful film; a rare breed of film that makes you wonder why such a gem goes so unrecognized by moviegoers. This is such a well-done and important film that has the ability to re-create history with pure authenticity. One of the best things I did last week was purchase this DVD. As soon as I started it, I knew there was no turning back.
I had never heard of the event itself (here's my age showing again). Never even learned about it in high school. As a matter of fact, I'm learning there's LOTS of things I never learned in high school, but back to the movie. "Bloody Sunday" is a documentary-like film that re-creates what transpired on Sunday, January 30th, 1972. In a Civil Rights demonstration in Northern Ireland, British troops opened fire on protesters when things were getting hairy, which would eventually lead to 27 wounded and 13 dead. This was a tragedy that struck a major blow to the Civil Rights movement, and to Ireland and Britain as well.
From what I understand, this is still a very controversial topic, even today. Nobody is still 100% sure of what exactly happened. Both sides are still debating and offering their versions of what really went down. I don't know much about the event, as I said in the beginning of this review. What I do know is that this film was done in a very realistic and authentic way, and I believe that what happened on that tragic day might've gone down the way it did in the film, or very close to it. I also believe that the movie shows both sides, not just one.
This film was done entirely hand-held, meaning not once did the filmmakers use a dolly or camera stands. The end result is that it gives it the raw and realistic feel that it needs to be affective. There is no story or plot in the movie. The movie isn't there to tell a single story or show us "characters;" the only goal is to try to educate us all on what happened on January 30th. You never look at the actors as actors, but more like the real people themselves. In fact, when I was watching this, I was very convinced that I wasn't watching a movie, but a real documentary.
The DVD comes equipped with some very nice special features. Those being two commentary tracks and 2 documentary features. That may not sound like a lot, but when you view or hear them, you feel very satisfied. It would've been nice to have a few more extras, but I can't really complain. Nor do I want to.
I really believe the filmmakers when they say that they did not make "Bloody Sunday" to open old wounds. They want to educate us all on what happened and they want us to confront it. Much like when an addict has a problem but he or she won't admit it, the problem will never come to a resolution if we continue to ignore it. I urge every history teacher to make their students watch this movie. I urge EVERYONE I know to give this movie a try. It is a rare and unique gem that takes historical films to a new level that it has never reached before. It's a shame that not many have seen it, but my hope is that more people will see it now since it is available to own and rent on DVD and video. "Bloody Sunday" is an experience you will never forget, and it is an important one you do not want to miss out on. Definitely makes my Top 10 of 2002 list, without question.
An emotionally crushing recreation of the infamous January 30, 1972 clash between British troops and Irish protesters in the town of Derry, which led to the deaths of dozens of civilian marchers. "Clash" is perhaps too strong a word -- this film (as well as several abortive inquiries) makes a strong case that the testosterone-amped British "para" soldiers simply went berserk and shot people at random, in hopes of "teaching them a lesson they'd never forget." The distinction between IRA warmongers and the civilian civil rights movement was apparently lost of the embattled English, but their actions at Derry helped lock the Catholic-Protestant feud into place right up to the present day. Filmically, this is an impressive work: the documentary-style handheld camera work, which seems a bit mannered and distracting in the first part of the film, pays off handsomely when the violence starts -- the fear and chaos of the event is made palpable in a suprisingly visceral manner... it's like a punch to the gut when the shooting starts.... and then it worsens and keeps on going for what seems like an eternity. Regardless of what you think of the filmmaker's political slant, the skill with which they built this film's dramatic impact is undeniable. Viewers will have to make up their own minds about what they believe actually happened that day, but this film proides a convincing argument on behalf of the civilian victims. Highly recommended.
on November 12, 2005
Set up like a documentary, Bloody Sunday, brings to the screen the true story of the 1972 massacre in Derry, Northern Ireland, by the British forces and the cover-up that followed.
James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, and the rest of the cast, have truly outdone themselves with their performances, which are exceptional to say the least!
Very well written and very well presented, the movie does a great job of describing the complexity of Northern Ireland.
The setting, the plot, the dialogues and the music are all wonderful!
In short, Bloody Sunday is a movie definitely worth watching and one to seriously consider adding to your movie collection!
on March 8, 2005
From the moment the opening credits begin (with a haunting and brooding score punctuated by nervous military radio banter) to the sombre closing credits (with a fine live version of u2 performing Sunday, Bloody Sunday) this picture, dramatising the unfortunate events of 30 January 1972, in Londonderry, N. Ireland grips you and--slowly, surely--winds the tension up like a spring.
Whilst I will avoid recounting the events of that terrible day (the previous reviews do that very well) and will avoid commenting on its historical accurateness (there's certain to be inaccuracies cited in this telling by historians, and, truth be told, the British do not represent well at all here [seeming so hateful and criminal as to be, at times, difficult to believe--but, maybe that's the point) I will say that the film feels amazingly real-that is, it is utterly convincing. Through a documentary styled presentation showcasing amazing and sharp acting performances, you are drawn in completely-you believe you are there.
Technically, this DVD is beautiful. The picture is presented in a gorgeous anamorphic 16x9 transfer with solid blacks and crisp and tight (if intentionally muted) colours. The audio is likewise full and punchy. You will notice that there are two feature audio track options: 1. A `Domestic' audio track (which is, in fact, a U.S. mix (domestic would mean the U.K., the film's place of origin), and 2. A U.K. release mix. The difference between the two is that the U.K. track has a much more spacious and pronounced ambient/surround mix, whereas the `domestic' mix reduces much of the ambience in favour of a louder (centred) dialogue track (most likely to aid the N. American audiences not conversant with the Irish accents and varying dialects featured so prominently in the film.)
I cannot recommend this film too highly. It is a fine example of what art can aspire to when embedded with a strong and passionate message.
on January 24, 2004
I just viewed my copy of Bloody Sunday and I was stunned. This is, quite simply, a tremendous film that portrays a day of absolute horrow in a way that captures the emotion and stays true to the factual accounts of what happened. It certainly does make the British forces look bad, but it should. The facts speak to unreal over-aggression by the British military that day and any true to life account needs to show what actually happened. Throughout the course of the film, you watch the development of this day from both sides. You are witness to those searching for civil rights in Northern Ireland and their efforts to organize a peaceful march in Derry. You are also witness to the British government and military forces, who expect a conflict and vigorously prepare for one. Finally, the film reaches its climax when the British military fires on those in the civil rights march and continues to engage them, killing 13 and wounding 14 more. Bloody Sunday is one of those days that needs to be remembered in vivid detail....not only so that justice can be served for the killing of innocent Irish citizens...but so an attrocity such as this never occurs again. It is a worthwhile subject, a stunning film, and one which I would strongly recommend to anyone out there looking for some good, quality viewing...especially those of Irish heritage.
on September 7, 2014
"Bloody Sunday" creates almost unbearable tension as director Paul Greengrass recreates the tragic events of 30 January 1972 in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, when thirteen unarmed demonstrators were shot dead by soldiers of an elite British parachute regiment. There have been a number of cinematic treatments of the Northern Ireland conflict -- Jim Sheridan's "In the Name of the Father" (1993) is probably the best-known -- but "Bloody Sunday" remains unique because of the restraint with which the story is told. The events of Bloody Sunday are allowed to speak for themselves, increasing the dramatic impact of the film.
Paul Greengrass's directorial style seems to be a deliberate choice of minimalism. I'm not sure whether to call it cinéma vérité or something else. In many ways, it reminds me of the Dogme 95 school of filmmaking, set forth back in the 1990's by a group of Danish directors led by Lars von Trier. The Dogme directors committed to following a strict set of rules -- e.g., hand-held camera only, no music without a practical on-screen source such as a radio -- all of which were meant to make sure that what appeared on screen would feel more real, less stylized. Greengrass seems to be following at least some of these rules, and his doing so gives the film a documentary-style realism. The abrupt fades from one scene to the next leave the viewer feeling perpetually off balance.
(Special note to American viewers: The accents that one hears in the film -- not just Northern Irish accents, but also accents from different parts of England, Scotland, and Wales -- are rather strong. When I showed this film for a class at Penn State, my students asked me to activate the subtitles so that they could understand better.)
James Nesbitt plays Ivan Cooper, the real-life Protestant politician who sought to build a multi-religious coalition of people who would march together for civil rights, and for an end to the endemic and systemic discrimination that the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland then faced. American viewers who know Nesbitt only as the hapless but likable hog farmer Pig Finn in "Waking Ned Devine" (1998) will here see him playing a very different sort of character -- a confident, forceful, dynamic leader, optimistic that he and the people he is leading are on the right side of history. When an IRA leader says, "Marchin's not gonna solve this thing," Ivan's reply is a succinct, "Watch us." Ivan and his supporters, following the example of the American Civil Rights movement, emphasize their commitment to non-violence, and sing "We Shall Overcome" as they make their way among the poverty-stricken flats of the Bogside; and their optimism is touching precisely because we know that, on this day at least, it is unjustified.
The factors that will contribute to the tragedy of Bloody Sunday are many. A small group of lads, militantly opposed to the British presence in Northern Ireland, seem motivated at least as much by mischief as they are by politics. The British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1 Para), forever cooped up in their Saracen half-tracks as they roll through hostile nationalist neighborhoods, are tired of being taunted, and their supervisors assume that the march will be marked by violence and hooliganism. The audience senses at once the inappropriateness of an elite offensive military unit being deployed in a domestic peacekeeping role. British General Ford (played by Tim Pigott-Smith), calling for get-tough measures against the Catholics (whom he doesn't mind telling jokes about), is portrayed as a personification of aristocratic hauteur; his immediate subordinate, Brigadier Patrick MacLellan (played by Nicholas Farrell), has official tactical command of the British response to the march, and wants to handle the banned march with "minimum force," but seems to have no real power as long as Ford is around. The practical, experience-based perspectives of the city's Chief Superintendent Lagan (played by Gerard McSorley) are blithely ignored by the arrogant Ford.
The film's pale, desaturated color scheme adds to its air of realism, as angry young nationalists break away from the main parade, and 1 Para soldiers, anxious to kick some arse, start shooting. The image of a march steward's corpse, draped in a bloodsoaked "Derry Civil Rights Association" banner, speaks volumes. As Lagan angrily asks MacLellan, "You call *that* minimum force?"
Yet the film does not end with the shootings. It is striking to see Private Lomas, the one conscience-stricken member of the 1 Para unit that fired upon the protesters, trying to decide whether to tell the truth as the members of a military board of inquiry ask, "Were all the rounds fired in accordance with the yellow card?" General Ford washes his hands of the affair, placing a stricken-looking MacLellan in charge of the inquiry while stressing that "My role on the day was purely as an observer." We hear a heartbroken Ivan Cooper say to the British government, "You've destroyed the Civil Rights Movement. And you've given the IRA the biggest victory it will ever have." In the darkened hallway of an apartment building, we see IRA gunmen handing weapons to new recruits, and we know that what is still called "the bloody watershed" in Northern Ireland, one of the worst periods of the civil conflict there, is about to unfold.
Greengrass's minimalist style perfectly complements this heartbreaking story, and the DVD contains one particularly haunting extra -- an interview between actor James Nesbitt, who played Ivan Cooper, and the real-life Ivan Cooper, conducted in the part of Derry where the Bloody Sunday shootings occurred. The contrast between the peaceful, post-Good Friday Accord city of today and the urban battleground of 1972 is striking.
Much has changed since 1972, and even since this film's release in 2002. In contrast to the 1972 Widgery Report that largely exonerated the British Army, the Saville Inquiry, published in 2010, concluded that British troops had "lost control" and fired on unarmed demonstrators, and British Prime Minister David Cameron offered an official apology on behalf of the British Government. While there is still plenty of tension in Northern Ireland, especially during the summertime "marching season," the peace established by the Good Friday Accords has, in the main, held. "Bloody Sunday" reminds us of a past that Northern Ireland will hopefully never return to, and draws a singularly powerful picture of the ways in which, in any politically volatile society, tragic events can take on their own momentum.
on January 31, 2008
Paul Greengrass, who brought us the powerful and controversial "United 93," made a stunning film about the events that transpired on January 30, 1972 in Londonderry. Greengrass presents the film in a documentary fashion, giving the impression that you are observing the events as they take place. On that day, the Civil Rights Movement, led by MP Ivan Cooper, were determined to march in spite of an official ban on all such gatherings. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association fought against many abuses of power on the part of the Northern Ireland administration, but the core issue was the abolition of Operation Demetrius, or internment. Basically, British soldiers could arrest and intern those suspected of being paramilitary groups without charge or trial.
Cooper, who came from a rural Protestant background, wanted only a peaceful march. He urged IRA members not to bring weapons to the march, and advised youth who were harassed by soldiers to "just walk away." Unfortunately, due to high-levels of IRA/British soldier clashes, the "Paras" (1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment) were out in force. In addition, despite Cooper's pleas to the contrary, armed "Provos" (members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army) were present. It's still not clear how it began, but shots were fired, and the Paras killed 14 unarmed marchers and wounded several others. The film clearly implies that the British shot first, though that's something that may never be determined with certainty.
Shortly after the events of Bloody Sunday, the British government convened an inquiry known as the Widgery Inquiry. It absolved all the British soldiers of responsibility. In response to political pressure, Tony Blair launched the Saville Inquiry, which as of now has yet to release a report.
In the final part of the film, with Ivan Cooper and other Civil Rights leaders speaking at a press conference after the events, Cooper says: "I'd like to say to the British government- you know what you've done, don't you? You've destroyed the Civil Rights Movement. Tonight, young men will be lining up to join the IRA, and you will reap a whirlwind." His words proved to be prophetic. Had Bloody Sunday not happened, it's likely that the Civil Rights Movement could have achieved what the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements are now achieving.
The acting and direction in this movie are top-noptch. Even though the viewer knows what's going to happen, one feels a certain amount of suspense. The interment issue has an eerily contemporary ring to it, and this film shows the dangers of a militarized police force. The two featurettes on the DVD are quite informative as well. In sum, this movie is highly recommended, both for history fans and those who want to use the lessons of history to change the future.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was a John Lennon song from his "Some Time In New York City" set that introduced me to this sad day. "When Stormont bans out marches," was the chorus that rattled in my head for the early 70s. Then the U2 song came out. Now I'm pleased to see this film.
It's hard to review this film without either reviewing the event itself and the political situation that surrounds it or reviewing the cinema verite style that director Paul Greengrass employs. There is no doubt that "Bloody Sunday" is powerful. I sat watching the credits roll afterwards and listened to the U2 song even after the screen went black. I found this film less effective that the docu-drama "Veronica Guerin." Gerald McSorely played Irish Mafioso John Gilligan in "VG"; and here plays Capt. Supt. Lagan who sits dumbfounded hearing the news, patently ignored by the British officers.
The film is centered around Ivan Cooper played by James Nesbitt. He does an excellent job as a wheeler dealer politician who then becomes dumbfounded at the day's results. Tim Piggott-Smith does a marvelous job as the boneheaded Gen. Robert Ford who goads the British into the confrontation and then crows about it as a tremendous success.
The short abrupt cuts didn't work as well for me. If they had started with longer sequences and progressively been snipped to shorter and shorter shots as we approach the massacre, the film would have had more of a sense of build. As it is, it does convey the sense of confusion with people talking at once, not listening to each other, and then the screen cutting to a completely different setting and sequence, leaving each part dropped but adding to a cumulative effect.
Because this film is about an extremely important event, one that is unfortunately mirrored in too many unjust situations around the world, it does have a universality and resonance. On the other hand, because we don't spend long enough with each character, because we don't come to know the 13 killed or the 14 wounded, there is a facelessness to the proceeding. It would have been more moving for me if like "Veronica Guerin" we become directly involved with the characters and concerned with their outcome. Even so, it's a film that deserves to be seen. Enjoy!
on June 1, 2003
One of the outstanding films of 2002!
The events of January 30, 1972 are familiar to most people primarily through the U2 song "Sunday Bloody Sunday." On that fateful, tragic day, a peaceful march for civil rights in Northern Ireland ended in a horrifying massacre when British troops opened fire on the demonstrators. Now, three extraordinary filmmakers - writer/director Paul Greengrass, cinematographer Ivan Strasburg, and editor Clare Douglas - have pooled their talents to give us their view of this watershed incident, one that so enraged Northern Irish Catholics that it ended up strengthening the hand of the IRA and heightening anti-British sentiment in that part of the world.
"Bloody Sunday" is reminiscent of those great films from the 1960's like "The Battle of Algiers" and "Z," wherein the filmmakers successfully recreate a moment of terrifying violence in purely cinematic terms. By employing a handheld camera throughout, Greengrass achieves the kind of reality and immediacy that is only possible through cinema verite style. The camera bobs and weaves, becoming a major character in the drama. Indeed, the film feels very much like a documentary feature recorded at the actual event itself. The filmmakers do an amazing job staging the complex action, managing to view the incident from widely varied vantage points - from the marchers in the crowd, to the policemen standing by for trouble (and fomenting most of it themselves), to the demonstration's organizers, to the troop leaders at command center where the decisions for action are ostensibly being made. The crowd scenes are so well handled in this film that they could easily become a textbook case study for future filmmakers seeking to make movies in a similar vein. Greengrass also heightens the verisimilitude of the work by resisting the temptation to employ a background musical score. Instead, the "soundtrack" of the film is composed of the perpetually ringing telephones that subtly reflect the extraordinary import of the moment.
Because Greengrass' main concern is in getting the physical details of the incident right, less time is, understandably, devoted to character development. Nevertheless, he still manages to bring a few of his key people to life, particularly Ivan Cooper, a member of Parliament who organized the march, a man whose guiding philosophy is that people must have the right to protest peacefully to achieve social justice. Ivan serves as the focal point for the audience, as we come to identify with his commitment, his passion, his level-headedness and his genuine concern for the people he represents. James Nesbitt does a beautiful job conveying the humanity of this Gandhi-like central figure. Greengrass also allows us to see, in telling glimpses, the differing attitudes that prevail among the citizenry of the town as well as among the policemen - both those giving the orders and those executing them - towards what is happening on screen. Indeed, there is nothing less than a superb performance in the entire cast. (In an interesting moment of visual irony, the camera catches a glimpse of a movie marquee with the words "Sunday Bloody Sunday" emblazoned on it - a reference to the famous John Schlesinger film from 1971).
Some people may have trouble with this film on two counts - one ideological and the other technical. There are some who may see the movie as somewhat one-sided, biased and slanted, since clearly the British troops are seen as the Bad Guys in the incident. More serious, perhaps, is the fact that the Irish accents are so thick that those of us unaccustomed and unattuned to them may find a significant portion of the dialogue garbled and incomprehensible. That being the case, it is a blessing that the film's greatest virtues lie in its visuals.
"Bloody Sunday" is an exciting, brilliantly executed tour de force that reminds us of just how powerful cinema verite can be. This is, easily, one of the very best films of recent years.
on October 28, 2002
Familiar with the famous U2 song, "Sunday Bloody Sunday"?? Well, here's a look at the events that inspired that song.
On January 30, 1972 Catholics living in the Northern Ireland's city of Derry march for human rights denied under British rule. But this wasn't an ordinary march by any means. Thirteen marchers were shot dead during what was later termed "Bloody Sunday".
This movie alternates between both sides of the firing line. Efforts of the march's organizers leading up to the march along with several young men who participated in the march are captured. In addition, the military readiness of the British soldiers is also revealed. This movie unveils savage acts of the British soldiers as they fire upon the defenseless crowd.
I recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in this horrific day. It will make you think twice about the role of the military in Northern Ireland.