A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie depicts a tragic, violent event. The graphic shooting of unarmed protestors is very disturbing and the ensuing images including mayhem and grieving are likely to terrify younger children. Young adults accustomed to Hollywood's comic book portrayal of violence are likely to be disturbed by the events so realistically framed on 35mm film.
What's the story?
On January 30, 1972, thousands of civil rights demonstrators in Derry (Londonderry), Ireland, held a rally to protest the British Government's use of internment without due process in Northern Ireland. Amidst the confusion, the British army opened fire on protestors, killing thirteen and wounding fourteen others. The day became a turning point for the Northern Irish "Troubles" inspired thousands to join the Irish Republican Army (IRA). This movie takes a turn at correcting this imbalance by recounting what happened on Bloody Sunday in a powerfully realistic half- drama, half-documentary. Five characters represent the major forces of the day: a reluctant protest organizer and popular local –Protestant--politician, Ivan Cooper (a mesmerizing performance by James Nesbitt); a seventeen year old Catholic boy, just out of jail and torn between protesting and staying out of trouble, Gerry Donaghy (Declan Duddly); the radioman whose shock and disgust with his fellow soldiers is pitted against his loyalty to the unit, Soldier 027 (Mike Edwards); the dutiful but sympathetically human Brigadier, Patrick MacLellan (Nicholas Farrell); and, the unbending imperialist with the order to end the unrest, Major General Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith).
Is it any good?
BLOODY SUNDAY director Paul Greengrass does an excellent job at crafting a documentary feel for the story, complete with grainy film, jumpy shots, wavering sound and naturally gray light. The dialogue might be hard to follow between strong accents and a shifting aural perspective but the result is so realistic that the abrupt ringing of the phone or the crack of gun fire makes you flinch.
Greengrass chooses not to review events leading to Bloody Sunday beyond passing references, however the moment itself is caught with a moving clarity: whether you agree with Greengrass' portrayal of controversial events or not, he does a good job of capturing the feel of a society in flux during the early 1970's and portraying the plight of Derry's denizens. It is in the faces of those around the five main characters where so much of the event is framed: the subtle shift of expression on the face of the Captain of the local police force as the Major General orders soldiers into position; the desperate grimace of an unnamed man as he rushes to resuscitate a corpse; the vacant eyed shock of a man learning of the death of a loved one beneath iridescent hospital lights.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how director Greengrass used a distinctly "documentary" camera style, intended to make an audience feel like they are there as a witness to history. As a brief notice in the credits mentions, the movie is based on events that did occur, however many of the conversations and characters were created for the purpose of the story. Is it important to the story that the audience think of this film as a documentary? If so, what issues might this raise for Greengrass or other filmmakers when they are presenting stories based on controversial events? From a historical perspective, families can talk about how this movie relates to current news stories about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. How is the debate being presented to the court of public opinion? How has this changed since Bloody Sunday? When Ivan says that the IRA scored its biggest victory on Bloody Sunday, what does he mean?
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