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Queen & Country (DQ)


Stars: Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, David Thewlis, Richard E Grant, Tamsin Egerton, Vanessa Kirby, David Hayman, Sinead Cusack, Pat Shortt, Aimée Ffion-Edwards

Director: John Boorman

Boorman's recollection of his National Service days - a belated follow-up to the 1987 film Hope and Glory - plays like a farce for the first three-quarters of its runtime, inserting a few more serious elements towards the end: Stand Up Virgin Soldiers is perhaps the template, although the horrific consequences of (the Korean) war are shown here as an aftermath rather than in actuality.

It's 1952 and Bill (Turner in an average performance) befriends Percy (a peculiar turn by Landry Jones) at basic training where, like other recruits, they soon fall foul of seemingly psychotic Sergeant-Major Bradley (Thewlis), their by-the-book superior.

They expect to be shipped off to Korea, but, mysteriously promoted to sergeants, find themselves instead put in charge of the typing pool. And then there are romantic entanglements while on leave, crossing swords with the CO (Grant, acting as if in an Ayckbourn farce) and a reunion with Bill's errant sister (Kirby) who, marriage over, returns from Canada with an accent but without her two children.

Little of this rings true, based on truth as it may be: Boorman's alter ego certainly seems to have had an eventful time in his two years' conscription, matters focussing mainly on larks concerning the theft of the company clock, which runs like something out of Bilko, sitting uneasily with the story's more emotive notes.

This dichotomy leads to the film feeling continually one step removed from reality, an artificial take on real events.

David Quinlan

Ireland/UK/France/Romania 2014. UK Distributor: Curzon Artificial Eye. Colour (unspecified).
114 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 04 Jun 2015