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For Queen and Country Movie Review

stellman reuben washington denzel

For Queen and Country is bogged down with good intentions and by characters who function as symbols rather than as people. The thrust of the film is that Great Britain does not care about the lower classes, and if the country makes use of a poor man in wartime, he can expect a life of hopelessness when he returns home. Denzel Washington is so good in the central character of Reuben that he grabs our attention and sympathy in spite of the rigid symbolism of his role. Also good are Dorian Healy as Fish, a friend crippled by his tour of duty, and Amanda Redman as Stacey, a woman who is interested in Reuben until she recognizes his evolving need for violent solutions. The rest of the cast, including veteran character actor George Baker, are given no chance to do much more than advance the plot. I have the same reservations about director Martin Stellman's turgid screenplay for 1987's Defense of the Realm. By wanting to make a predetermined point with as few words as possible, he reduces most of the characters to delivery people. In For Queen and Country, nearly all of the first 90 minutes of the plot are absorbed with establishing the unjust poverty suffered by Reuben and Fish, something a writer without such a rigid agenda could have shown in a fraction of the time. In fact, a single moment reveals that if the British bureaucracy had been a bit less unyielding, Reuben and Stacey might have been able to make a go of it. But Stellman chooses to show the moment as anticlimactic, then wraps it all up with violence and deja vu and says what? That because the British government is unfair to disconnected veterans that they might as well pack it in the day they get their discharge papers? That's what Stellman's persistent images indicate. There are suggestions of other resolutions, but that would have disturbed the conclusion's contrived symmetry. There are quite a few things wrong with For Queen and Country but Denzel Washington isn't one of them, and the film is worth seeing for his commanding performance alone.

1988 (R) 105m/C GB Denzel Washington, Dorian Healy, Amanda Redman, Sean Chapman, Bruce Payne, Geff Francis, George Baker; D: Martin Stellman; W: Trix Worrell, Martin Stellman; C: Richard Greatrex; M: Michael Kamen. VHS

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