on July 15, 2001
I just finishing wathching the engrossing story of Michael Collins for the second time. I watched this movie the first time, a few years back when the movie was in the theaters and I didn't know who Michael Collins was. Boy, I come a long way, but anyways although I liked movie the first time, I could in no way understand the ramifications of this Irish conflict. After countless reading, I watched Michael Collins last night feeling as if I was watching the movie for the first time. Liam Neilson(sorry for the misplelling) was born to play this role and does it brilliantly. He portrays Collins's character in the light he was famous for, courageous, witty, keen, and always one step a head of the brits and even his comrads. Although I tend to agree Julie Roberts is a bit of a miscast, and I would have loved to see a truly Irish actress tackle the role of Kitty, such as the beatuful actress who played Murron in Bravehear, but all in all Julie Roberts did an admirable job. Overall this is a truly fine film, that depicts Ireland's greatest hero of all, and although he was killed he will never be forgotten.
on June 23, 2001
It all looked so promising - at last, a big-budget movie about Ireland's history and actually directed and screenwritten by an Irishman! Tax breaks from the Irish government and thousands of Dubliners willing to work for free as extras gave it an added boost. So what went wrong? First of all, we have the Oirish cliches. Take this one. Mr Collins makes a speech on a donkey cart. There were such things as platforms in early 20th century Ireland, but let that pass. Then the polis come. Collins gets down from the cart and headbutts someone. Mob take out many hurleys and start headwhacking. The whys and wherefores are a mystery here. It's the modern version of the obligatory barfight scene. Irish public are violent louts whose innate thuggery must be harnessed by a fellow thug in order to behave loutishly towards bigger thugs?
Did anyone actually read the facts about the IRA campaign of guerilla warfare? We get the idea that the whole war, though outwardly aimed at England, is just an internal squabble - which is exactly how the English tried to portray it. For an idea of the lost potential of such a scene, read this report from the English 'Daily Mail' of a mass meeting in Ennis, Co. Clare, in 1917 for a flavour of the time: "It was a day of triumph for the tall, slim young man in the romantic green uniform. De Valera's arrival on the platform...was the signal for shattering cheers. In the square and its conveying streets he faced 10,000 men...As the cheers roared around him, De Valera held up his hand. There was instantly a dead silence...[He] himself said very little. 'I am not here to speak,' he cried. 'The time for speechmaking is over. The time to act has come!'"
And then the story. It is well known that most real lives don't translate very well to the screen, so subtelty and imagination must be applied liberally. Unfortunately, Collins's true story doesn't lend itself very well to a movie, as the story of, say, Patrick Pearse or Eamon de Valera would. Their lives had real cinematic qualities - heroism, political vision, idealism etc, that is lacking here. Instead of fictionalising the character, which is usually necessary for a successful dramatic narrative, Jordan used the actual facts and twisted them, which only usually works in history, when the historian isn't very particular about the truth. Thus, instead of being a valuable asset to the republican movement, Collins *is* the republican movement - so much for poor aul' Cathal Brugha, who organised the War of Independence, with the assistance of Richard Mulcahy and the constant involvement of de Valera, who was the senior surviving commander from the 1916 Rising. (Brugha was also a prominent 1916 survivor.) Believe it or not, Collins *was* just the 'head of a subsection', as Cathal Brugha (portrayed as a raving lunatic, naturally) famously said. One doesn't wish to underestimate Collins's role, but it was almost exclusively in intelligence. Think of how interesting a film based on Collins's espionage might have been, instead of the fruitless insistence that he was the Big Fella, he really was!
Instead of the statesman that he was (recognised all but officially as the President of the Irish Republic in America, where he toured and raised funds in 1919-20), de Valera 'becomes' a mere conniver, whose only interest is...well, it's not explained, really, but we just *know* he's evil. To set the record straight, all Jordan's insinuations about his motives are wrong. He did not suddenly jump from being a little, egotistical man, to one known internationally for his integrity and his opposition to imperialism - and fascism - overnight. He also had a much greater involvement in the War of Independence than he's given credit for, and neither he nor Brugha approved of Collins's occasional 'revenge' killings. And so on.
As for the acting, the standard was poor. Neeson was alright, but the others were, frankly, atrocious. (Poor aul' Harry Boland, portrayed as a weakling by Quinn, was most definitely *not* killed in a sewer but gunned down in a hotel room by a murder gang. And why was Dev, in his 30s at the time, made to look old enough to be a grandfather? That's apart from the fact that they really should have given him a moustache to twirl to make him the complete stage villian. And let's not mention the woeful miscasting of Julia Roberts...)
Such a pity, really. I think we all in Ireland deserve a better showing, really, after so much Hollywood misinterpretation of Ireland.
on June 4, 2000
What a shame that whenever this film is mentioned nowadays, it's almost always referred to as a Julia Roberts flop. It's actually scarcely a Julia Roberts film at all. Her role is quite minor-and it's commendable that she took it on, really, since she was already a star. I gather she was looking for serious roles in meaty films in an effort to beef up her acting credentials.
And this certainly was a meaty film. It is, in fact, a much, much better film than I had ever imagined from the reviews of the time. I only regret never having seen it on the big screen, because its epic sweep and beautiful cinematography would have been all the more impressive.
Americans, including Irish-Americans like myself, have only the vaguest notions of Irish history. We learn the basics in school, and probably, most educated Americans have an idea of approximately when and how the Irish Republic was established. We may also know that six counties in the North remained under British rule and are still part of the UK (at least, I hope we do--after 30 years of reports on the "troubles").
"Michael Collins" goes some distance toward filling in those informational gaps. I am aware that many critics have challenged writer/director Neil Jordan's interpretation of Irish history (in particular his making Eamon De Valera, the President of the Irish Republic, something of a villain). To that, one can only respond that historical dramas are by definition an interpretation of history. I see that a few of the reviewers below have mentioned that this film inspired them to seek out more information about Irish history. Those of us that do will eventually get a more balanced view, perhaps. It was not Neil Jordan's job to provide us with that perspective. His job as an artist was to tell as engaging a story as he could. On that score, he has succeeded very well indeed.
on June 1, 2000
Neil Jordan's Michael Collins is a fast paced intelligent work about a early twentieth century Irish poltical activist and military leader. The film has romance, pace, action, wit and humour. Neil Jordan is probably one of the best script writers in terms of quantity and quality of product now working in world cinema. It's his intelligence and unique way of seeing a situation I find is refreshing. Dressing up a future President of Ireland of Ireland disguised as a whore is witty and fair comment on the corruption in politics in Ireland at the moment. Taking up the story of Michael Collins after a failed rebellion in Dubllin, Ireland, against British Imperial rule at the time, 1916, Jordan quickly introduces the characters of the film. Harry Boland, a Dub amusingly played by Aidan Quinn (Fans of Quinn can see him also in the fine This is my Father which he made with his brothers) Eamonn De Valera, a political intellectual leader of the republican movement well caricatured by Alan Rickman, and Kitty Kiernan, played by Julia Roberts in a performance which will steal your heart. A fine supporting cast led by english actor Ian Hart gives this film top quality drama. The performance of Liam Neeson in the role of Collins is one of the best of his career so far with the flair of his Oscar Schindler character and the strength of Collins Cork origins mixed with poignant reflective moments, this is terrific natural playing.
Basically the story is of Collins out-witting the British administration and winning a negotiated settlement. A lot of Collins' characteristics are picked up in the movie. His cycling around Dublin under the very noses of the security forces, his playing with De Valera's children and wrestling with whoever was about as a bit of a joke. Unlike the revolutionary leaders who are said to have copied Collins, like Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh etc., Collins was more likely to say "are you on for a pint ?" than any guff about the good of the movement. His tactical talent and strategic skills are shown but his skill at managing the large amounts of intelligence information isn't as well appreciated in the film. His realization that a republic was better forged under steady transition, and more logically needed to be worked out as to its practical meaning, was a foundation stone of the current Irish state. Further his belief that a democratic decision, a popular vote, was the crux of any situation and to be defended despite any loyalties to the contrary. This latter point is made dramatically in the film as Collins and Boland find themselves on opposite sides having been pals. (For more information on Collins try Tim Pat Coogan's "Michael Collins", a better read is "De Valera" by the same author.)
on May 7, 2000
Michael Collins is the kind of political epic that wins Oscars. The only strike against this big, blowzy Irish potato is that it exalts a man many see as villain.
There are no easy answers bestowed on us in Michael Collins, nor should there be. But the questions pondered come in such a sumptuous package that it's easy to get lost in all the free-flowing Irish nationalism.
History does agree that Collins was a patriot trying to free his homeland from stiff-necked British control. While the sun was setting the Empire, its wee neighbor was testing its limits and then openly rebelling against the Crown's sovereignty.
Starting in 1916 with the famously bloody Easter Uprising and ending with Collins' ambush and death in 1922, Neil Jordan's detailed and dizzying trip does much to shed light on what's a historical footnote for most non-Irish Americans. I just wonder how it will play in London.
Liam Neeson brings an amazing vigor and poignancy to the title role as Collins goes from minor revolutionary to big man of the little isle. And as with most martyrs for the cause, there's ample time in the movie's two and a half hour running time for Collins to ruffle opposing feathers. Interestingly, one of the first is that of Republic President Eamon DeValera (a rightly stoic Alan Rickman). Both desire a free Irish state, but while De Valera prefers diplomacy, Collins is ready to kick some arse if he has to.
Michael Collins plays fast and loose with many of the facts, and the subplots, including a love triangle between Collins and Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) is bland and inconsequential. It may not set your rebellious heart afire, but Collins does contain more than its share of blarney-free bluster.
on February 13, 2000
Historical films are notoriously inaccurate. ("Braveheart", for example, is a terrific movie but all over the place historically.) Drama, after all, is oftentimes inconsistent with the tides of history. Which was why I was so impressed to read a magazine article some time ago touting the film's attention to detail and accuracy. I made a special note of wanting to see "Michael Collins". Am I ever glad I did. This is a wonderful, wonderful movie.
"Michael Collins" is the story of a member of the Irish Republican Army who succeeded in leading Ireland to independence, but at great cost. A participant in the famous "Easter Rising" of 1916, Collins was arrested and became a leader in the Irish independence movement. Collins was an extraordinary leader who devised guerilla warfare tactics to fight the English army that would later be used by the Viet Cong, and daringly rescued Eamon DeValeria, the man who would become the leader of Ireland and whom many believe was responsible for Collins death. Collins also negotiated the treaty which ended 700 years of English rule in Ireland, and as Commander of the Irish Provisional Army was forced to fight against guerillas opposed to the treaty (which left the northern six counties a part of England and delayed full independence). The irony was that Collins was forced to hunt down and kill the very men he trained. Many in Ireland look on Collins as a hero, others as a traitor. His death is, like the Kennedy assassination, a great controversy- nobody has the faintest idea who killed him. As historical figures go, few are as controversial or as romanticized as Collins. The film covers the 1916-1922 era of Collins life, from the Easter Rising until his death.
Writer & Director Neil Jordan clearly has passion for the project and it shows. Collins is a real hero to Jordan and the director goes to great lengths to be as accurate as possible and to show us Collins in action.
Perhaps Jordan's best move was in casting Liam Neeson in the part. Neeson is a very talented actor who delivers a terrific performance in the title role. Neeson's Collins is firey, angry, passionate, hates war, longs for peace. It is hard to imagine anyone else in the part.
The rest of the cast is good- Alan Rickman is impressive as Eamon DeValeria, a difficult role to play given how much DeValeria and Collins are at odds with one another in the end. Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, and Stephen Rea are all also good in their supporting roles as Collins best friend, the woman the two men compete for, and the English agent who provides Collins with critical intelligence.
In terms of location and cinematography, it is hard to do better than this. Jordan has painstakingly recreated Ireland & Dublin of 1916-1922, and it looks stunningly beautiful and stunningly realistic. One actually feels like you are seeing the real Ireland of the early part of the century instead of a recreation.
"Michael Collins" is a wonderful film that history lovers and people fascinated with Ireland will adore. Highly recommended.
on November 9, 1999
This film brings home to us that the loser of this war was (and is) Ireland herself. "Michael Collins" is art, and it does all that art can do.
I'd like to address something a thoughtful viewer wrote here: "I am always skeptical of love interests in historical/biographical films of this sort." OK, I buy that. But Kitty Kiernan, Mr. Collins's actual fiancee, becomes in this movie the symbol of Ireland herself/itself. The Irish people traditionally have seen their beloved land as mother, sister, "Dark Rosaleen"... and Miss Roberts's role never panders to viewer's prurient interest. She is the Ireland that both warring "brothers" love, and fight for, and the Ireland that loses them to each other... that's a tragedy of war, this war and others...
The end of the film brings home to us that the loser of this war is Ireland herself. Film cannot *be* life; in that sense it can never be totally accurate. Film can only convey to us what we the audience can recognize. The flags, the accents, the love interests--they are not history but devices to convey history on a flat screen in two hours.
on October 31, 1999
It's tough to rate and accurately review a movie that means a great deal intellectually and emotionally. It was October of 1996 when I watched this film at the theater and I walked out forever changed. Prior to viewing the film, I had no idea about the life of Collins and I did not realize how young Irish independence truly is. Both the tragic elements of Collins's death and Liam Neeson's stirring performance led me to learn more about the life and times of Collins by voraciously reading anything I could find on the topic. It can be a rare thing for a historical film to pack a punch that seems relevant to modernity, but _Michael Collins_ does just that.
The plot, essentially, is this: A young man named Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) and his close friend Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) are working for the cause of Irish independence. At the beginning of the film, they are taking part in the Easter Rising. A vivid and riveting portrayal of the executions faced by the Rising's leaders is juxtaposed with Eamon DeValera (Alan Rickman) writing a letter to Collins explaining ostensibly why he would not be killed (he was of American birth). Michael travels around the country and works tirelessly with Harry for the cause. He is thrown in jail, he is beaten during a campaign speech and he meets an intriguing woman, Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts). Collins falls for her but Harry does too. Initially, she is dating Boland but in time, her heart goes to Collins. During this romance, Collins is both running from death and ordering it for his opponents. He taps the resource of Ned Broy (Stephen Rea) a veritable double-agent working as a G-man. Collins is chosen to negotiate on the Irish side of treaty talks, though this event is covered rapidly in the film. He returns home and is engaged to Kitty only to find that he and Harry are on the opposite sides of whether the Anglo-Irish Treaty should be ratified. There is plenty of drama and some comic relief here and there. I won't go into the details of the ending, though I am sure most people reading this review already know or can guess how the story concludes.
If you are interested in Irish history or "war films" in general, _Michael Collins_ is a film for you. If you view it and find yourself as drawn into the actual biography of Collins as I did, I highly suggest you pick up a good book on the subject. Though the film makes for an excellent introduction, it can in no way compare to the wealth of real, tangible information out there.
on May 28, 1999
Although this movie wasn't supported by the reviewers, I think it was an excellent attempt to puzzle through an impossibly complex (still) situation in Ireland. For those of us with English, Scotch-Irish and Irish ancestry, it gives us a little perspective. How could these people from these tiny adjacent islands hate one another so? Having seen 'Mary, Queen of Scots', I also had some perspective for how long the hatreds have gone back. The loyalty of the men to one another was something our modern day politicians could learn from. Alan Rickman played the cold, calculating but nonetheless, brave leader of the rebels. He plays these unsympathetic parts beautifull, as he allows the viewer to have some compassion for what is obviously one of the 'bad guy' roles in the movie. Julie Roberts lost her Irish accent halfway through, and was a poor choice for the role. But I frankly think a love interest was important to give some relief to the unremitting eternal enmity that exists among fellow Irishmen and their English 'overlords'. It's still a puzzle, but a wee bit more understandable to a girl from the South, who has seen its' own stupid war. Alice Copeland Brown
on November 21, 2003
Passionate screenplay and breathtaking cinematography, supported by Goldenthal's top notch background score: this film truly surprised me.
Plot-wise, you will learn a lot about the Irish rebellion against the British. The story, I found on some googling, has some crevices (e.g., Ned Broy was NOT murdered by the Tans as shown in the movie, in reality he survived the whole thing and went on to become the first head of the Gardai, the unarmed Irish police force.)
Yet, the superbly executed plotline unravels with an exciting pace, and is easy to follow. I was riveted.
Acting-wise, tight convincing performances all around, seems they couldn't have selected anyone better than Liam Neeson to portray Collins, although Julia Roberts was a bit expendable (and what's with that ill-achieved Irish accent!) Alan Rickman as de Valera was stunning as usual.
Despite its length, the film does full justice to the inspiration character of Collins. Recommended!