QUEEN AND COUNTRY (Ireland/France/Romania/15A/114mins)
Directed by John Boorman. Starring Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat Shortt, David Thwelis, Richard E. Grant, Vanessa Kirby, Brian F. O’Byrne, Sinead Cusack, Tamsin Egerton, Aime-Ffion Edwards.
As the 9-year-old Bill Rohan cheers Adolf Hitler for blowing a hole in the side of his school, his face morphs into the 18-year-old Bill Rohan (Turner), called up for national service and sent to a training camp in Aldershot. It’s here he meets his conniving mentor, Private Redmond (a well-cast Pat Shortt), who informs him that everyone in the army “is trying to get away with something”. And so, along with his buddy Percy (Jones), the Carry On begins, countered with a little mysterious love intrigue from Bill, as he chases the elusive and mysterious ‘Ophelia’…
THE VERDICT: It’s been 30 years since honorary Irishman John Boorman (Surrey-born but Wicklow-based for decades) last visited his early years, 1987’s HOPE AND GLORY having charted the adventures of his 9-year-old self riding the topsy-turvy waves of World War 2. In QUEEN AND COUNTRY, we jump forward ten years, for a teenager’s experiences after he’s called up for National Service. Tellingly, those experiences are as much about women as they are about war. The signs are all there for the life ahead – living in the shadow of Shepperton Studios, the unfaithful mum, the anti-authority – and Boorman is clearly playing from the heart here.
If the end result is neither Terence Davies serene nor Mike Leigh misanthropic, being far too episodic for either, QUEEN AND COUNTRY does try to reflect another pivotal time in history, with Boorman’s remarkable later life clearly showing its roots here.
Review by Paul Byrne

Queen and Country
Review by Paul Byrne
3.0Personal, but episodic
  • filmbuff2011

    John Boorman’s last film was The Tiger’s Tail in 2006 – which now looks rather dated given Ireland’s economic crash and subsequent bail-out. Now 82, he’s still on fine form though with his new film Queen And Country. It’s a sequel to his 1987 film Hope And Glory, which was based on his memories of the London Blitz during WWII. Queen And Country is drawn from Boorman’s post-war experiences, when he was conscripted into the army. His onscreen counter-part Bill Rohan (Callum Turner) is now an adult and is drafted into the army to serve in the new Korean War in 1952. There he meets Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) and the two of them start chasing girls – Percy a nurse (Aimee Ffion Edwards) and Bill an older, troubled but unreachable beauty (Tamsin Egerton). They also get up to some mischief in the barracks, where strait-laced Sergeant Bradley (David Thewlis) won’t take any of their nonsense. Bill’s political leanings against the war in Korea soon influence a soldier to quit, and Bill is charged with ‘seducing a soldier from the course of his duty’, as per the Army Act which Bradley regards as his Bible. This whole experience will change Bill and Percy, hopefully for the better… Queen And Country taps into the same sense of humour and warm nostalgia that Hope And Glory achieved so well. It’s a worthy follow-up that doesn’t feel like it has arrived 25 years late like some belated sequels (e.g. Blues Brothers 2000). In his director’s statement, Boorman says that the relationship between memory and imagination is mysterious territory. He’s drawn from his own personal experiences to enrich these characters and bring them to life. There’s a sense that he’s being serious about certain issues (conscription, the morality of war), while light on other areas (the absurdity of army barrack life, just waiting to be sent to war). It makes for entertaining viewing, played out onscreen by a talented cast that also includes Pat Shortt, Brian F. O’Byrne and Richard E. Grant as three very different army superiors. If you enjoyed Hope And Glory, then you’ll certainly enjoy Queen And Country. Let’s hope that Boorman still has another film in him – and that we won’t have to wait so long next time. ****