Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#2,403. Bloody Sunday (2002)

Directed By: Paul Greengrass

Starring: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell

Line from the film: "You call that minimum force?"

Trivia: To make this movie as authentic as possible, no lights were used in the movie and the camera work was entirely hand-held

On January 30, 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) staged a peaceful march in the city of Derry, to protest the British military's recent internment of Irish men. ignoring the decree that outlawed such gatherings, MP Ivan Cooper, who organized the march, joined senior members of the NICRA and hundreds of locals as they made their way through the streets of Derry, unaware that a highly-trained team of UK paratroopers had moved into position, waiting for the order to start the arrests.

But something went terribly wrong, and by the time the smoke cleared, 27 Irish men and women had been shot by British soldiers, 13 fatally. An inquiry eventually absolved the military of any wrongdoing (they insisted they were fired upon first by members of the IRA), but for the citizens of Derry, life would never be the same again.

It was a tragedy that became known as "Bloody Sunday", and Paul Greengrass’s extraordinary 2002 movie of the same name recreates these horrible events in such a convincing manner that we feel like we’re smack dab in the middle of it all.

Bloody Sunday is all-encompassing; hours before the march was scheduled to begin, Ivan Cooper (played brilliantly by James Nesbitt ) is frantically trying to arrange things; and tells the IRA, in no uncertain terms, to stay away (it was, after all, a peaceful demonstration). 

At the same time, Brigadier Patrick McLellan (Nicholas Farrell) of the British military is meeting with Chief Superintendent Lagan (Gerald McSorley) of the Derry police force to discuss how best to handle the march. Before they can come up with a plan, however, Major General Robert Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith), McLellan’s superior, announces that he’s taking control, and will personally lead the paratroopers into the city, where they will do whatever is necessary to bring the protestors to “justice”.

For a while, the march is quiet, but soon a few angry young men, including Gerry Donaghy (Declan Duddy), break away and begin tossing rocks and bottles at British soldiers. 

Shots ring out, and Cooper - like hundreds of others - is forced to take cover as the paratroopers gun down anyone they feel is a threat. The shooting continues for some time, and despite the one-sided outcome, General Ford will tell the press that his men acted heroically under very difficult circumstances. 

Stunned by what’s happened, Cooper and other members of the NICRA tour the hospitals, comforting families and trying to make sense of the slaughter they just witnessed.

Using hand-held cameras and filming (in part, anyway) in the very streets where the tragedy occurred, director Greengrass brings a documentary-like feel to Bloody Sunday. Even the early sequences leading up to the march - like when Cooper and the others are discussing whether or not they should change the parade route - have an unmistakable energy to them; and the shooting itself is presented as if it was footage lifted from a war zone. 

During the later scenes, when the day’s events begin to sink in, we cry along with the citizens of Derry, some of whom have lost loved ones in the fracas (the sequence in which Cooper and his team break the news to the families of the deceased is positively gut-wrenching).

It was a tragedy that will live forever in the minds of those who were there that terrible January day, and Bloody Sunday is a devastating, thought-provoking account of these events, as well as a motion picture that you won’t soon forget.

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