I was really mystified when this landed in my hands from Netflix. Then I realized why I’d received it – I hadn’t done my normal Netflix reshuffling and this had worked its way up to the top of the queue.
I had always meant to watch Michael Collins again. I saw it a few years ago and left it feeling that it was a decent film but not feeling like I wanted to watch it again any time soon, considering it made me cry buckets of tears (which is difficult to make me do, and I have only now remembered my lengthy, post-Michael Collins crying session).
Making a movie about Michael Collins would be difficult, one should think, given the gravity of the time and place in which Collins lived, and the kind of life Collins led. It certainly didn’t stop them from making one, though.
By all accounts, Collins was a pretty fearsome guy. From Wikipedia:
In retrospect, the sheer scale of Collins’ workload and his achievements are substantial. He created a special assassination squad called The Twelve Apostles designed to kill British agents; arranged the “National Loan”; organised the IRA; effectively led the government when [Eamon] de Valera travelled to and remained in the United States for an extended period of time; and managed an arms-smuggling operation.
Damn, dude. All judgments aside, that’s a lot to do, especially when you take into consideration that Collins was shot and killed when he was 31. Of course, this movie benefits from having Liam Neeson in it, if we’re taking my pure shallowness into consideration. And believe me, Mr. Neeson is smoking hot in this one, but I had forgotten that my arch-nemesis was in this movie.
JULIA ROBERTS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THIS MOVIE?
In a movie chock filled with every semi-known Irish actor you can think of for the time, including Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn and lots of other people, Julia Roberts was the best choice to play Kitty Kiernan, the love interest for both Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) and Michael Collins?
It’s not that I detest Julia Roberts; I just got really, sickeningly tired of her a long time ago and she doesn’t do much to hold anyone’s interest in this movie. She’s just sort of there, like a robot helping to move the film along bit by bit.
As far as sheer movie-making goes, it’s a very well-done film from the standpoint of ignoring the history bits. It starts out in 1916 during the Easter Rising and travels all the way to Collins’ assassination, thereby skipping the early life of Michael Collins and picking up pretty much where he starts doing all those big things he’s still remembered for. Neil Jordan, the director, pulls the right strings appropriately to get your emotions going in a very deft way. The acting doesn’t really need any comment as I’m sure you can assume everyone’s spot on, which they are. Besides Julia Roberts, the only sore spot is the way Alan Rickman speaks as Eamon de Valera, which is slow and stilting. You’re always anticipating the next syllable to come out of his mouth. It’s extremely irritating, and I think the film kind of portrays de Valera as a schemer and a slow, conservative man who’s not quite as righteous nor as forward thinking as Collins. In essence, the film plays up Collins but even more plays down de Valera. Whether or not this is historically accurate, I can’t honestly say – but it does feel like de Valera’s made a little awkwardly villainous to accentuate or highlight more positive elements of Collins’ character.
And, at the very least, Michael Collins did remind me of why I scowl a little when I initially see Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
JONATHAN RHYS-MEYERS KILLED LIAM NEESON, YOU GUYS. Nowadays, I just look at him and think, “Really? Joe from Bend It Like Beckham was the guy that took down Michael Collins? Runs like a girl? Wore makeup in Velvet Goldmine? He’s supposed to be hardcore enough to shoot Michael Collins?”
For what it’s worth, it’s a good movie in my opinion that is interesting. It does kind of canonize Collins and portrays him as so heroic in a way that makes you wonder if you’re getting the whole story (and surely not everyone finds Michael Collins to be how the film portrays him). However, it is entertaining but extremely depressing. For God’s sakes, I may never be able to watch anything with Stephen Rea ever again without crying.