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Sleeper of the Week: ‘Queen and Country’

Sleeper of the Week: 'Queen and Country'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some
light on it.

“Queen and Country”
Dir: John Boorman
Criticwire Average: B+

No one was begging for a sequel to John Boorman’s lovely Oscar-nominated “Hope and Glory,” but the director’s “Queen and Country” may be the rare belated follow-up that’s more than welcome. Boorman’s semi-autobiographical original film, about British children (including Boorman surrogate Billy Rowan) growing up during the Blitz in London in WWII, took a child’s eye view of war with emphasis on joy and escape from humdrum ordinary life. “Queen in Country,” meanwhile, takes a look at a grown-up Bill Rowan (Callum Turner), a budding cinephile in 1952 London forced into the army as the Korean War looms.

The film has more than a few traces of “Hope and Glory’s” wry sense of humor, especially after Bill befriends Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) and finds joy in irritating a stringent sergeant (David Thewlis). But there’s plenty of bittersweetness, too, as Bill chases girls and falls for one (Tamsin Egerton) who won’t tell him her name (he calls her Ophelia). It’s a whimsical film with a sense of wistfulness.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist

Boorman’s too much of a pro, and his classical, confident filmmaking never lets you forget that he’s been at this for half a century or so. “Queen & Country” is hardly reinventing the wheel, but it’s charming, evocative and (mostly) well-performed, and were Boorman to continue with his autobiographical cycle, we’d certainly welcome further installments. Read more.

Prairie Miller, Long Island Press

John Boorman, no stranger to deciphering violence under capitalism with Deliverance, grasps with his new war movie Queen And Country, the opportunity to mount an incidental battle of his own internally against a national belief system without a soul. Ridiculing a military hierarchy ranging from nasty to nonsensical, and pulled off with malevolent glee. Read more.

More thoughts from the web:

Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com

Which is to say that Boorman’s latest is not for folks who’ve never heard of John Boorman. But for cinephiles who’ve followed this 82-year-old British filmmaker’s long and sometimes eccentric career with interest and admiration, “Queen and Country” will be a sure winner. A sequel to the similarly autobiographical “Hope and Glory,” one of Boorman’s most renowned films (it received five 1987 Oscar nominations including Picture, Director and Screenplay), the new work is obviously personal yet also entertaining, accessible and beautifully crafted. Read more.

David Ehrlich, Time Out New York

Marrying the military milieu of “Full Metal Jacket” with the wistful English cheekiness that colored “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp,” “Queen and Country” is as achingly romantic a film as has ever been set during basic training. The brunt of Boorman’s bittersweet memories involve the lads chasing girls, teaching new recruits how to type, and irritating the base’s pathologically strict commanding officer (Thewlis) with their impudence. The stakes may seem low, but these high jinks resound with abstract generational import, the various episodes cohering into a moving portrait of a nation that couldn’t account for all it had lost in a war that it won. Read more.

Scott Foundas, Variety

John Boorman has gone back to the wellspring of personal experience that so richly informed his 1987 “Hope and Glory” for “Queen and Country,” and the result is a modest but pleasing return to form for the 81-year-old British director, here making his first feature since 2006’s little-seen “The Tiger’s Tale.” Set a decade on from “Hope,” during the Boorman surrogate’s compulsory military service, “Queen” never reaches the lyrical heights of its predecessor — arguably one of the greatest of all films about childhood and war — but benefits from a vividly realized sense of time and place and a gallery of colorful supporting characters burnished with the warm glow of memory. Read more.

Noel Murray, The Dissolve

What “Queen And Country” has going for it that admirers of the original will appreciate—and that total novices can enjoy just as much—is how skillfully Boorman takes major historical events and filters them through small, personal moments. Besides the British involvement with the Korean War, the film tackles the death of King George VI, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and the arrival of television in middle-class English homes like the Rohans’. In “Queen And Country,” Boorman’s take on these events comes from the perspective of a smart-assed kid who’s just as excited by the dates he’s going on, by the movies being shot near his family estate in Shepperton, and to talk about films like “Strangers On A Train” and “Rashomon” with his friends. Read more.

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Much as the war did in “Hope and Glory,” the army provides a loose frame around the action here. But Mr. Boorman approaches his story in the relaxed and generous manner of a raconteur, charming the audience rather than pushing us through the machinery of a plot. Our attention wanders into Bill’s romantic life, where his own attention is divided between Sophie (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) a warm, good-humored nurse, and a chilly, melancholy college student he knows as Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton). Each has other suitors, which is awkward, farcical and painful, like much of what happens in the movie. Read more.

Keith Uhlich, The L Magazine

Fantasy has always played a crucial role in Boorman’s cinema, though it’s especially affecting here (as it was in “Hope and Glory”) because it carries the weight of lived experience. This is the now 82-year-old filmmaker casting a hard glance back at himself through a deceptively whimsical lens. There’s never a moment when “Queen and Country” isn’t a joy to watch, as infectiously giddy in its way as the elaborate prank Percy orchestrates involving a Queen Victoria-owned antique clock. But there’s real sadness underlying even the gentlest scenes; a whole movie could be made about Bill’s free-spirited expat sister (Vanessa Kirby), whose status quo-deflating eccentricity goes hand-in-hand with her unspoken anguish about the many irritations, but also the relative stability, of family and tradition. Read more.

Armond White, National Review

It is Boorman’s sense of grace that takes this beyond a simple-minded Tory film; his perception and generosity are, indeed, rare. Imagine Jean Renoir’s “Grand Illusion” combined with Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Those profound films about our common humanity, common goals, are matched in Boorman’s light touch here, balanced by his acceptance of life’s unease. Understanding suffering enriches “Queen & Country” beyond “Hope & Glory”; it overcomes the latter film’s childhood nostalgia. Bill’s compassion for Percy’s anxiety and his commander Sgt. Major Bradley’s (David Thewlis) desperate regimentation shades and deepens the film’s mirth. Read more.

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