January 13, 2014

Lerman's 14 For '14 Day Eight: Violence Begets Violence BLOODY SUNDAY

"...and you will reap a whirlwind."
I am now convinced that Paul Greengrass is a goddamn magician.

I have no other explanation for how he is able to make staged drama look and feel so much like documented reality that the two become practically indistinguishable.  Lest you think I'm exaggerating, this was the conversation that Jamie and I had just before I started the movie:

Jamie: "What's on for tonight?"
Daley: "Bloody Sunday."
Jamie:  "Oh I think I saw that in theaters.  It's a documentary, right?"
Daley: "No, but it's Paul Greengrass.  So yeah."

I already talked about this with Captain Phillips (as well as in reference to United 93) so I don't really want to harp on it again in great detail, except to say that without a movie star face* like Tom Hanks to keep reminding you that you're watching a film, it's easy to see how folks could confuse Bloody Sunday for eyewitness footage of the violent murder of 13 peaceful civil rights protesters in Derry, Ireland at the hands of British soldiers.

I've been meaning to watch this movie for ages.  I fell in love with Greengrass after United 93 and that love was only cemented with his two Bourne films, which are some of the best action/spy films of the modern era.  Bloody Sunday is one of those films that I've never heard a bad word spoken about, and all that praise is absolutely earned.  It is an absolute masterstroke, with a climax that will tear your heart right out of chest and shred it to pieces in front of you.  It is so utterly horrifying precisely because it is so realistic.  All the camera work is done handheld with no lighting setups to perfectly mimic the documentary style.  I'm assuming that much of the cast is made up of Derry natives and so much of dialogue is delivered in an overlapping, chaotic style that I probably missed about a quarter of what was spoken, but it's such an immersive experience that I don't care.  There's no haunting score to amp up the drama, no cutting away to close ups so we can experience the emotional turmoil of those involved...just a cold, dispassionate presentation of slaughter as it would have appeared to any one of the hundreds of innocent bystanders.

Much like Captain Phillips, Greengrass certainly has a point of view about these events, but he isn't totally one-sided about it.  In his latest film we see Phillips ignore safety warnings to avoid the Somali coast, but he's never vilified for that decision.  The man made a judgement call and the situation didn't go his way, but his ensuing bravery and heroism are indisputable, even if the initial danger was somewhat of his own making.  Here we see many of the young protestors throwing rocks at the British troops and a few IRA guys even take a few shots at the barricades.  There's no argument that the military wasn't at least on some level provoked, but it's also clear that their response was a grossly disproportionate use of lethal force by both commanders looking to make a public statement and by a handful of bloodthirsty soldiers anxious to make civilians pay for the deeds of the IRA.

I'm sure that, had I lived in Derry at that time, I too would have been marching with the crowd that Sunday, although I highly doubt that I would have been throwing rocks.  I've never had a strong propensity for violence and I'm generally a pretty even keel sort of fellow.  Jamie and I were just talking the other day about how I don't often get seriously angry, but when I do it tends to manifest itself as a full-on Hulk rage.  So perhaps I, like so many others that day, would have been so devastated and filled with hate after witnessing such a massacre that I would have promptly signed up with the militant IRA in order to make the English pay for their savagery.  Then again, perhaps I would have simply curled up in the corner and wept.  Hard to say.  The closest example I can think of to an event in my own life is September 11th, and I certainly never even considered enlisting in the armed forces in the days and weeks following the attack.  But I'll be honest, military service scares the pants off me on a number of different levels and I absolutely know that I'm simply not cut out for such a lifestyle.  I'm soft.  And you can't really get good nachos in Fallujah.

There's no music in the entire film, save for the closing credits which play over a life performance of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday."  It's a beautiful song that you'll never be able to hear the same way again after watching Greengrass's film.  I thought I'd leave you with a cover version from my one-time cover band BiPFT! featuring our resident Irishman Warren O'Reilly on vocals.  His quiet, cracking, soulful voice really reflects the sorrow of that day.  I think it's actually my favorite version of this song ever.

*I'll admit that watching Bloody Sunday now suffers retroactively from a similar condition, as James Nesbitt is currently best known from his work in The Hobbit films as The Dwarf With The Floppy Hat And The Fu Manchu Handlebar Mustache.

What's The Connection? - Brutality at the hands of the system.  While Bloody Sunday depicts soldiers killing helpless civilians, Memories Of Murder featured Korean police detectives beating and torturing suspects in connection to crimes of which they were certainly innocent.

Up Next - Down Terrace

Title: Bloody Sunday
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: James Nesbitt, Allen Gildea, Gerard Crossan, Mary Moulds, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell, Christopher Villiers
Year Of Release: 2002
Viewing Method: Netflix DVD

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