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Based on events that took place on Sunday, January 30, 1972, when British troops drew up a deliberate plan to get tough on demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland, who were planning a peaceful march in support of civil rights. Led by Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt), the march was to protest against internment without trial, but a combination of agitated youths, trouble making elements and a vicious army plan ensured a deadly debacle that turned the course of history and made the Irish troubles even worse.

Review by Louise Keller:
Those interested in the topic will find plenty of interest on the DVD. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the one with the real Ivan Cooper who talks with actor James Nesbitt about the events that took place. This is a DVD that provokes passion and in the History Retold feature, executive Jim Sheridan reminds us that this is the story the Irish can’t forget and the British don’t want to remember. Director Paul Greengrass (in an audio commentary with Nesbitt) explains that his intention at the beginning of the film was to immediately put forward the two sides of the argument and the impending collision: the civil rights movement and the determination of the British military to stop the march. If you want more, there’s another commentary from author/co-producer Don Mullan.

With its jerky hand-held camera and documentary feel, Bloody Sunday is a sobering recount of a very bleak day in Derry, when a peaceful demonstration to preserve civil rights and union domination ended in bloodshed. A wish for peace becomes a bloody war right in the midst of the city. From the very beginning, director/writer Paul Greengrass shows events from both sides. The aim of the Irish about to march is to peacefully reinforce their rights, while the aim of the British soldiers is to pick up local hooligans. The short scenes add a sense of urgency and there is a potent sense of immediacy as the camera flits from the streets to the soldiers’ headquarters, where strategy and planning is a sharp contrast to the devastation outside. 

Pressures mount and tensions escalate as both sides prepare for the commencement of the demonstration. Strong naturalistic and credible performances by the entire cast help us feel as though we are in the trenches. There are personal stories: the seventeen year old, recently out of jail, now wants to settle down, but gets drawn into the violence; the idealistic Civil Rights leader whose ideals are blown away like a bullet ricocheting through the air; the commander of the British Army who is under pressure to make tough decisions. The incessant ringing of the telephone adds a shrill expectancy – both in the home of the Irish leader and in the Army headquarters. As Ivan Cooper makes his way through the streets, he passes the local cinema where Sunday Bloody Sunday is playing. The crowd sings ‘We Shall Overcome’, as it begins its procession through the streets of Derry. When hostilities begin, there is chaos, panic and total confusion.

There is a sense of disbelief at the events that unfold, as the crowd disperses, runs for cover as the unarmed civilians are shot, wounded and killed. But perhaps the most chilling part of all, is the correlation of stories by the trigger-happy soldiers. And as the names of those killed are read out at a media conference, the outcome of the enquiry is revealed and offers a disturbing starting point for the tragedy and continued violence in Northern Ireland. It’s a passionately told story that offers no excuses, opening our eyes and putting into context an event that should never have happened.

Published October 16, 2003

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CAST: James Nesbitt, Tim Piggott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell, Gerard McSorley, Kathy Kiera Clarke

DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass

SCRIPT: Paul Greengrass

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 : 9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Paul Greengrass and James Nesbitt; audio commentary with author/co-producer Don Mullan; History Retold feature; Ivan Cooper remembers feature.


DVD RELEASE: (rental) May 23, 2003; (retail) October 9, 2003

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