Monday, March 30, 2015

Queen and Country (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Queen and Country

"Queen and Country" is John Boorman's sequel to his very personal and autobiographical "Hope and Glory" about young boy, Bill Rohan, during WWII. In that first film, Bill yells "Thank you, Adolph!", elated that his primary school is bombed by the Luftwaffe, consequently canceling school.
Potent stuff.

Now, Bill (Callum Turner) is a grown man. His parents live on an island in Shepperton where occasional movies are shot.

He is conscripted to service in the Korean War and his roommate is the shifty and volatile Percy (Caleb Landry Jones). The two strive to do as little as possible and mostly attempt to get close to girls. It soon becomes clear that Percy might be a bad influence were it not for Bill's introverted nature. Percy brings Bill out of himself. After a run-in with the rigid and snarling Major Bradley (David Thewlis), Percy wishes to bring him down at all cost, even if he has to kill him. Bill urges restraint, suggesting mere pranks, but Percy is incensed with rebellion.

The two have one ally in the secretly subversive Redmond (Pat Shortt), who may remind some of Benny Hill.

Percy, who seems to have a bit of randy fire and energy similar to the notorious  Alex from  "A Clockwork Orange," gets an idea to steal a treasured and rare radio from Major Digby (Brian F. O' Byrne) to start trouble.

Although a shade lighter than its predecessor in content and gravity, this sequel has a surreptitious and sneaky warmth that is hard to deny. Caleb Jones is a physical acrobat of emotions from the sinister to the silly. He is as iconic as Frank Gorshin's Riddler and there is definitely more than a bit of Malcolm Mcdowell's zany violence within. Jones is a wonder to watch.

Episodic, funny and apprehensive with shadows of anxiety in true Boorman style, "Queen and Country" and "Hope and Glory"  make cozy cousins to Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" in both tone and format. Interestingly, "Empire" author J.G. Ballard too, like Bill, made his home at Shepperton after the war. Indeed Boorman and Ballard both make references to camera in their work. To Ballard,  the very sun is described as a camera, while in the final shot of "Queen and Country," a film camera winds down as if to record the last innocence of Bill Rohan.

The last image with the enhanced sound of film being shuttered is not only a testament to the director's dedication as an auteur, but the closeup of the instrument is so deliberate, we realize the camera itself  is Boorman's body and life-force.

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