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 Andrew L. Urban:
In the age of cinema, no longer is it true that history is written by the victors. At least, not only the victors and not in the sense that is meant. Bloody Sunday is a wannabe history movie, not the least because it assumes the codes and the appearance of documentary filmmaking. The impact of this style on the audience is to press home its veracity. It captures the frenzy and chaos of political confrontation in the street more effectively than any film I’ve ever seen. (I say that, having seen the real thing.) The difficulty this poses in terms of the film’s political intent, namely to paint the British as vicious and stupid, is that it is profoundly biased – but so it should be, I suppose. The result is that the film is remarkably involving and effective, even though we can hardly understand any of the dialogue for the chaos and noise and cross talking (and the strong accents). But it doesn't matter, we get to feel it, if not hear it. Nobody can remain unmoved by Bloody Sunday and nobody can ignore the lessons is teaches those in power: power is not the same as authority. I find the faux-documentary style of filmmaking in feature length films problematic, though, even when I am emotionally engaged and emotionally and/or socio-politically in synch with the filmmakers. Here, the yearning of a cause and the plight of several individuals is fused into a cinematic attempt at history telling, and it is very well done. But I doubt that it has any healing value, albeit the filmmakers claim to be pursuing some sort of closure for those who took part. After 30 years of continuing bitterness in Northern Ireland, those of us who can only stare from a distance in anguish are probably left baffled and emotionally bloodied.
Review by Louise Keller:
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.
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BLOODY SUNDAY (MA)
CAST: James Nesbitt, Tim Piggott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell, Gerard McSorley, Kathy Kiera Clarke
PRODUCER: Mark Redhead
DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
SCRIPT: Paul Greengrass
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ivan Strasburg
EDITOR: Clare Douglas
MUSIC: Dominic Muldoon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Paul Kelly
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 3, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: May 23, 2003 (Also on DVD)