"Queen and Country" Tells Boorman’s Story
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
You can’t talk about "Queen and Country," a new film at the Tropic Cinema, without first talking about its director, John Boorman. While you may not know much about this Englishman who prefers to live in Ireland, you’ll easily recognize many of his movies: "Point Blank," "Hell in the Pacific," "Deliverance," "Excalibur" … some 22 films in all.
In "Hope and Glory" young Bill (played by Sebastian Rice Edwards) sees war as an adventure. Rules are forgotten, women exhibit a new freedom, and life is exciting. His father is a dreamer who works as a military clerk, his mother is unable to cope, and his teenage sister has discovered soldier boys. Imagine Bill’s child-like joy when Hitler’s Luftwaffe blows up his school. Ain’t life grand?
Now we have "Queen and Country," a sequel as it were. This Boorman film picks up ten years later when Bill (now played by Callum Turner) discovers a new war, the conflict in Korea. He and his over-the-top pal Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) never get near any action, but they engage in a war of wits with their commanders during basic training. Think: "Catch-22."
Their main antagonists are Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis) and the aptly named Major Cross (Richard E. Grant). The love interests are Tamsin Egerton and Aimee-Ffion Edwards. David Hayman reprises his role in the first film as Bill’s father.
Bookish Bill spends much of his time training recruits to type (harkening back to his dad’s role in the first film) when he’s not falling in love with the wrong girl, hanging out with his crazy pal Percy, dealing with his family, talking about films, and finally finding the right girl. Then he presumably goes on to become a great film director just like John Boorman.
Boorman himself started off as a dry cleaner and became a TV journalist before lucking into the chance to direct a modest film about the British rock group The Dave Clark Five. Then Hollywood called and a friendship with actor Lee Marvin gave Boorman his first hits.
Years ago when I had lunch with Lee Marvin on a picnic table in the Oregon wilderness, I asked him who had been his favorite director? "Boorman," he answered, then moved on with a steady stream of profane jokes and anecdotes about his wartime experiences.
Boorman returned the affection. "I learned more from Lee about filmmaking than from anyone," he says.
At 82, "Queen and Country" might well be John Boorman’s last film, his own personal story. But as he once said, "Movies are the repository of myth. Therein lies their power. An alternative history, that of the human psyche, is contained and unfolded in the old stories and tales." His film carries on this tradition.