“Queen and Country” (2014)
In 1950s England, Bill (Callum Turner) would rather spend his days on the banks of the Thames river, watching for pretty girls walking by or seeing a movie being shot by a nearby studio. Instead, he is anxiously waiting for his conscription papers, as he is about to go into the army. That day finally comes, and Bill heads off to boot camp where he meets Percy (Caleb Landry Jones), becoming fast friends. Bill is reserved and kind of shy, where Percy is the exact opposite, loud, quick to temper and is confident with girls.
After boot camp, Percy and Bill end up assigned to a post in England where they have the job of training men to type so that they can become clerks. Bill and Percy’s lives are made miserable by the cast of characters that work at the camp. The regiment’s commanding officer (Richard E. Grant), is a career military man, strict as they come. The thorn in the boys side is Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis); a “do everything by the books” man whose main goal in life is to make everyone follow the rules. If you don’t do what Bradley thinks is right, you go down in his books as an instigator, and Percy and Bill never follow the rules.
Bill’s life changes when he and Percy get leave, and they go into the town searching for girls to flirt with. While at a classical concert, Percy starts flirting from afar with two girls who seem interested. Bill ignores the girls because he is transfixed by a gorgeous woman (Tamsin Egerton) sitting in front of him. She is a woman who seems so out of his class and reach. Never getting up the nerve to talk to her, he lets her disappear into the crowd, with Bill thinking he will never see her again. Little does Bill know that not only will he see her again; she will change his world forever.
The film a sequel to John Boorman’s excellent five-time Academy Award film “Hope and Glory” (1987). That film followed the exploits of a nine-year-old boy and his crazy family during the London Blitz of WWII. That movie was funny, warm and as quirky as the family it depicted. Probably because that film was seen through the eyes of a young boy, and this film centers on a grown-up Bill in the Army, “Queen and Country” ends up dark and not nearly as much fun. A cloud seems to hang over the men in the regiment, and that cloud dampens the film, making the movie at times lifeless and devoid of charm. Rarely does any attempt at humor work, and there is a mean spiritless to some of the characters.
The film only works when Bill is on leave, spending time with his family at the home on the Thames. His father, Clive (David Hayman) is still scatterbrained and overly patriotic. His mother, Grace (Sinead Cusack) is a little worn down; mostly by the memories of an affair she had during WWII. Things liven up when Bill’s sister, Dawn (Vanessa Kelly) arrives. She is older, unhappily married, has two kids but never lets that get in the way of her lust for life. There is a wonderful scene where the family has gotten a TV to watch Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Bill gets stuck on the roof, turning the antenna, as his sister below him gives him instructions, relayed from his father inside the house.
I liked most of the supporting cast, especially Vanessa Kelly, who breathes life into every scene she is in as the rambunctious Dawn. David Hayman and Sinead Cusack, playing Bill’s parents are enjoyable to watch though I would have liked to have had more scenes with them. Tamsin Egerton, playing the ice queen that Bill is interested, dominates the scenes that she is in, with the camera loving the way that she looks and moves. The weakness of the film are the two leads; Cullum Turner as the earnest Bill and Caleb Landry Jones as the excitable, ever plotting Percy. Jones is too over the top, making his scenes where he freaks out almost unwatchable. Turner is so laid-back in his scenes; you never see why a girl would ever be interested in him. He has no chemistry with Turner and only seems to work well with Egerton, playing his sister or Vanessa Kirby, who plays a girl that Percy dates.
Writer / Director John Boorman’s script fails to bring any real excitement to the screen. The film rarely shows Boorman’s flair for finding the interesting and unusual shot that have marked his other films. It’s as almost the drab and dreary 50s dominated the film’s script, bringing not much life to this rather dull film. I only hope that John Boorman makes another film about his life, but set in the fast-moving and quick changing sixties. That’s a movie that I would like to see. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Queen and Country” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here