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"The Wind That Shakes the Barley"

Directed by Ken Loach.
Written by Paul Laverty.
Starring Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, and Liam Cunningham.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  4/24/07


I'm glad that I got my buddy Yac to come see "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" last week with me--I like catching movies with my man flick significant other...but, much like my experience going to US-based Irish pubs, I was left dissatisfied with the experience because the film is an up-and-down affair.

Based on the early days of the IRA, the film covers the exploits of a small cell of Irish men who join the IRA to fight against the British soldiers who are occupying Ireland in 1920.  The cast of characters is a ragtag bunch who start the film with about as much "military" training as I have, coming from a couple of villages in the Irish countryside; quickly, though, they have the framework in place for the kinds of random, spotty quick-hitting guerrilla charges that made them an effective force against the larger British Army.  Initially, they are led by Teddy (Padraig Delaney) and his brother Damien (Cillian Murphy, from "28 Days Later" and "Batman Begins") as they work with a small crew of about a dozen other men to take out various officers and operations all over the region; by joining forces with men of all walks of life, the various IRA cells continue to do damage while occasionally being arrested, tortured and eventually escaping their British least, for a while, because you just KNOW that eventually, the big bad English bastards are gonna catch up with our principals as they work their way towards an eventual peace treaty with the British

I was telling Yac during our viewing of this flick that it felt a lot like either "Red Dawn" or any film involving the WWII Nazi regime as the bad guys; the British are clearly the world's evil bastards in this film and by coming over to occupy Ireland, the good-guy ragtag nature of our leads makes for fun, kill-the-well-endowed-uniformed-officer scenes where you find yourself rooting for the Irish to take down the Brits at every opportunity.  The film is VERY difficult to understand for an American who can't swim through the thick Irish accents of the leads; in fact, this film is one of the few UK productions I have seen where subtitles might actually be a good idea.  Even by the end, I couldn't understand about a third of what was being said, which is rare for me, because when I see Brit productions, it usually takes me the first ten minutes or so before I am down with the speed and the terminology being used, and then I'm good.  Not so in this one!

But then you have leads that are interesting, and engaging, with characters that look chummy and you feel that trench-built friendship as these guys commit crimes against The Man.  But then again, you have a film that runs a bit too long for what initially gears up as a war-ish adventure-like drama and then gets really long in the tooth before it's all over.  Ahh, but the cinematography is quite good and I'll admit--even not being from the UK, I loved it every time a British soldier yelled "Fucking Irish!" at our beloved heroes...but, not knowing the true history behind the real-life events depicted here, I was left a bit lost in terms of how the last 20 minutes of the film shook out.

This experience was a bit messy for me, and the strange thing was that I was awake the whole time.  I'm sure that a combination of the film's drawn-out second half and the fact that I seriously couldn't pick up so much of the dialogue hurt me in the long run, but I still think "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is worth seeing.  Especially if you are fucking Irish.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09