With a stack of positive reviews as long as my arm and a Tomato-meter reading of about 88 per cent, I was really excited about seeing Ken Loach’s new movie The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Much to my chagrin though, not only was the movie not dramatically satisfying but I was downright bored to tears. I never thought that the story of the early days of the Republican rebellion in Ireland could be told so flatly, but there you have it. I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded person, but I just found this movie completely un-engaging although occasionally interesting enough to bring my mind back to the screen in front of me.
The film is about two brothers in Northern Ireland. Damien (Cillian Murphy) is a straight-laced doctor who’s leaving for London to pursue his studies until an act of brutality perpetrated by British soldiers forces him into the IRA with his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney). The brothers and other members of their militia fight a guerilla war against the British in the foothills and mountains of the Irish countryside until a peace accord is reached and an Irish Free State is created. At this point the brothers find themselves on opposite sides, Damien believing that they’re trading one type of elitism for another and Teddy believing peace is worth any price.
I don’t think you need a history text to realize where things end up from there. Shoot, people still talk about the IRA and peace in Ireland, you can ask your Mom about it and undoubtedly she could cite a few grisly tales about the conflicts waning days in the 80s and 90s. So what did I get out this movie that I couldn’t get out of a history text? Not a whole lot and I guarantee that the whole thing was about as exciting.
The film stars all Irish actors, which is great and all as it really adds to the authenticity, but to be brutally honest I had no idea what was being said half the time. I mean literally because with the combination of thick Irish accents and local dialects I had no idea what anybody was saying. Not that it mattered because I really didn’t find the characters all that engaging as everyone just seemed like they were there to fill a part; characters with a purpose, not purposeful characters.
And the story wasn’t helped by the very black and white view the movie has of the issues in Ireland. I know that the British acted like bastards when it came to Ireland and the Irish, but I’ve got to figure that they weren’t consistently monstrous. As in I highly doubt that every British soldier stationed in Ireland went out of his way to beat an old man or set a farmhouse on fire on suspicion that the family that lives there knew the whereabouts of IRA members. Like I said though, there’s little doubt that British did very bad things, but The Wind That Shakes The Barley is very narrow minded in terms of who’s good and who’s not.