1997 Movie Review: THE BOXER, 1997

 

THE BOXER,  MOVIE POSTERTHE BOXER, 1997
Movie Reviews

directed by: Jim Sheridan

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Brian Cox, Nye Heron, Jer O’Leary
Review by Virginia De Witt

SYNOPSIS:On the eve of peace being declared in Northern Ireland, Danny Flynn is released from prison after serving 14 years for his youthful involvement with the IRA. Danny’s former girlfriend, Maggie, married his best friend, Tommy Doyle, and had a son, Liam. Tommy is now in prison himself and Maggie is watched vigilantly by the local community as she is now a prisoner’s wife and must be above reproach at all times. Danny sets out to start his life anew, and continue with his boxing career which had been interrupted by his prison term. He begins by initiating a training program for young boxers in the youth centre where Maggie also works. They reconnect even though it is dangerous for them to be seen together. At the same time, Danny begins to fight professionally again. Events spiral out of control as Maggie’s young son, Liam, is furious over his mother’s attachment to Danny. As well, Danny’s newfound commitment to the peace process sets him on a collision course with members of the local IRA.

REVIEW:

This third collaboration between writer/director Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis is the least well known. It was shot from an original screenplay co-written by Sheridan and Terry George. Their main object in telling the fictional story of Danny Flynn was to dramatize the culmination of the peace process and the consequences of it in the lives of ordinary people living in Belfast. In an interview on the DVD, Sheridan says the idea for the story came to him while he was living in New York in the ‘80s watching the news from Ireland, which was all bad. Then one night, a young Irish boxer, Barry McGuigan, was featured and said, “Leave the fighting to McGuigan.” Sheridan relates how he found it “… kind of innocent and naive a little bit, but great. Here was a guy in a violent profession saying stop fighting. That contradiction interested me.”

It’s that contradiction that is at the heart of the drama Sheridan and Geoge have crafted here. It is a thoughtful and intelligent take on the sometimes painful and dramatic progress of the peace process in Northern Ireland, which however, lacks some of the focus and tightness of storytelling that distinguished “My Left Foot” and “In The Name of the Father.” The tension that drives the story comes from the split on the republican side over whether to accept the terms being offered by the British to achieve peace, ie decommissioning weapons, etc. Danny (Daniel Day-Lewis), his friend and boxing mentor, Ike Weir (Ken Stott) and Maggie’s father (Brian Cox), an IRA chief, are all on the side of negotiating. They are each, in turn, confronted by Harry (Gerard McSorley), a break away IRA member, in violent episodes meant to sabotage the peace process. In the midst of this political drama, Sheridan works in a love story that is affecting and simply drawn.

Sheridan is ambitious here, attempting to combine what initially seem like too many elements for a small film. He does manage, however, to keep the political story, the love story and finally the boxing narrative of Danny’s attempted career comeback, balanced for most of the film. It is not until well into the last act when Sheridan cuts to Danny’s big fight in a London hotel that the film loses its momentum and bogs down. The London sequence is unnecessary dramatically as it doesn’t show us anything we haven’t already seen in Belfast regarding the peace process. It does, however, allow the filmmaker to make his point about violence by having Danny refuse to keep fighting a man who is clearly in distress. This scene is also an emotional nod to Barry McGuigan (who worked on the film as Daniel Day-Lewis’s trainer). McGuigan relates in an interview on the DVD how, when he was a professional boxer, he had fought a man in London, who had died later of head injuries. As admirable as all of this is, the point has already been made about Danny’s desire to use his boxing skills for peace in the earlier Belfast scenes. The result is that the build up to the final confrontation between Danny and Harry at the end of the film has been crucially interrupted.

Despite this lapse, overall the film works well. As usual Sheridan, and his actors, are wonderful at capturing the nuances of Irish life believably and dramatically. In the extended wedding scene that opens the film or in the depictions of the daily interactions at the Holy Family Boxing Club, the rhythms of language, the pleasures and pressures of family life and social obligations are all caught knowingly, and yet seem completely natural in their context.

The cast is crucial in this process. Daniel Day-Lewis is intense, but quiet, as Danny Flynn, displaying a barely acknowledged sadness just beneath his surface that is moving. This is a man who is aware of what he has lost by virtue of his earlier decisions and has now grown used to being alone. It is easy for us to understand how Danny now only wants to start his life again. As an important part of that new life, Emily Watson, as Maggie, displays a disarming simplicity. Maggie is quiet too, but it is a quiet strength. We come to know that in her world to talk too much is dangerous. Maggie learned long ago how to navigate her way through the byways of a life lived in proximity to violence. Watson lets us know subtly that this endless process, both personal and political, is now wearing her down. As well, she has a nice rapport with Daniel Day-Lewis in their scenes together. Ken Stott, as Danny’s trainer, is memorable as an older man who, like Danny, is desperately trying to begin again but knows the odds are against him.

The original music by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer is eery, evocative of tribal chants, mixed with Celtic sounds. The cinematography by Chris Menges has a sometimes strangely blueish tint to it, but is clear and sharp and captures the dark world out of which these characters are struggling to emerge.

The ending of “The Boxer” lacks the joyous completion of “My Left Foot” or the triumphal vindication of “In The Name of the Father.” There is, instead, an air of quiet resolution about it, and the film overall. Nonetheless, “The Boxer” deserves its place alongside these other two excellent films and should be revisited

 

 

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Film Review: CHURCHILL (UK 2017) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

churchill.jpgA ticking-clock thriller following Winston Churchill in the 96 hours before D-Day.

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writer: Alex von Tunzelmann
Stars: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
CHURCHILL begins with the scene of an image of World War I and II Prime Minister Winston Churchill standing on an isolated beach. He imagines blood washed by the sea on its shores while his black bowler hat eventually floats out into the vast horizon. The scene is rich in metaphors while being solemn, setting the mood for a 2-hour film on a Winston Churchill most of the world do not know. It is a Churchill depicted as a bully, drunk and opinionated self-pitying cad.

It is the week before the planned D-Day landing on the beaches of Normandy which everyone knows led to the defeat of Germany in World War II. No one is aware of the victory of D-Day in the film, and the planning is set with uncertainty. Churchill, after his failure of the Gallipoli war which resulted in the loss of thousands of young British men, was intent not to let the mistake of leading thousands to their death happen again. So, he would stop the D-Day landing at all costs. But planning was already under way,. Everyone including Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery) and Bernard Montgomery (Julian Wadham) believed that the landing would be instrumental in winning the War against the Nazis.

The trouble with this film is hat there is not much story but much repetition of the same storyline. Churchill is against the landing. He is shown the truth and he will only budge at the very end after learning that he had no choice. Still, the film still hails Churchill as a great man, as the title ‘the greatest Briton that ever lived’ is flashed on screen.

There are scenes that show Churchill at his worst. These include those where he is constantly pouring himself whisky and more so, when he takes it out on his secretary, screaming at her for little reason. The script, written by Alex von Tunzelmann is full of great oratorical speeches, which is expected as this is a story of a man who gave the great speeches.

British actor Brian Cox is nothing short of stunning in the title role of the Prime Minister. Cox is currently of the same age as Churchill during the time of the story. The supporting performances of Slattery and Wadham are also impressive. But arguably, the best performance comes surprisingly from Miranda Richardson as Clementine Churchill, his long suffering wife. She does not have the freedom of the luxury of leaving her husband no matter how tortured the marriage had become. The film emphasizes the importance of duty during the War.

CHURCHILL is a war drama without any battle scenes. It would serve as an effective prelude to the upcoming summer blockbuster DUNKIRK, directed by Christopher Nolan which reported is supposed to depict the horrific realities of the landing of the Allied forces on the Normandy beaches. CHURCHILL only hints of the horrors of the landing.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVOzMZ4IrMA

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Happy Birthday: Brian Cox

briancoxHappy Birthday actor Brian Cox

Born: Brian Denis Cox
June 1, 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, UK

Married to: Nicole Ansari-Cox (2002 – present) (2 children)

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Matt Damon
Franka Potente

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REDRED
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Jake Gyllenhaal
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2008
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Quinn Lord
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