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Michael Collins Movie Review

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Galway-born actor George Brent used to be a dispatch rider for Michael Collins. He escaped Ireland with a price on his head and eventually wound up in Hollywood at the Warner Bros. studio. Had the future of Ireland not been his preeminent concern, Michael Collins could have torn up the silver screen. Check out the newsreels of the early 1920s; Collins appears onscreen and you can't look at anything else. His skin, like that of many great stars, photographs so vividly you feel you can reach out and feel it, and his style, gestures, and charisma would be timeless in any era. Michael Collins had more important things on his mind than newsreel cameramen, namely an Irish Republic free of British control. Neil Jordan scrupulously charts the IRA's campaign of that time and, despite his finest efforts to create a movie that is both historically accurate and dramatically gripping, Michael Collins came under heavy attack from international political scholars who charged that considerable liberties had been taken with the truth. Well, you can plow through history books or you can see this film, starring the well-chosen Liam Neeson. For the record, Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) and Collins did indeed fight together, but not in the Easter Uprising of 1916. Boland was killed in a hotel room instead of a sewer. Informer Ned Broy (Stephen Rea) was not executed by the British; he is a composite of two other fighters who WERE tortured and killed by the British. Collins did not actually see the hanging of Tom Cullen (Stuart Graham), although hangings of Irish rebels did, in fact, occur. Joe O'Reilly (Ian Hart) was not with Collins when he was assassinated. And no, Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts) and Collins didn't meet like THAT. So now you know. It is difficult to show a pure political power struggle onscreen without some fidgety nitpickers asking when we get to hear some humor or see some sex. Despite all this, Jordan's epic is a masterful one and will likely find a more receptive audience on video than it did in theatrical release. And the tension between Collins and future Irish Prime Minister Eamon De Valera (1882–1975, played here by Alan Rickman) is revealed with chilling economy. If he had lived, Collins probably would not have joined George Brent in Hollywood at the Warner Bros. studio, but current affairs in the Irish Republic might be very different today. (Cast Note: Neeson and Roberts previously co-starred in 1988's Satisfaction.)

1996 (R) 117m/C Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea, Julia Roberts, Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Gerard McSorley, Stuart Graham, Brendan Gleeson, Charles Dance, Jonathan Rhys Myers; D: Neil Jordan; W: Neil Jordan; C: Chris Menges; M: Elliot Goldenthal. Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards ‘96: Best Cinematography; Venice Film Festival ‘96: Golden Lion, Best Actor (Neeson); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘96: Best Cinematography, Best Original Dramatic Score; British Academy Awards ‘96: Best Supporting Actor (Rickman); Golden Globe Awards ‘97: Best Actor—Drama (Neeson), Best Score. VHS, DVD

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