Daily | Cannes 2014 | John Boorman’s QUEEN AND COUNTRY

Queen and Country

Callum Turner in ‘Queen and Country’

“It is 27 years since Hope and Glory, John Boorman‘s fond film à clef about Blitz survival and wartime British pluck,” begins the Telegraph‘s Tim Robey. “It may not have felt like a picture crying out for a sequel, but name one Boorman film that ever has done. In a radical and shape-shifting 50-year career, the Shepperton-born director has jumped from hard-boiled revenge thriller (Point Blank) to absurdist war film (Hell in the Pacific) to primal buddy movie (Deliverance) to bonkers sci-fi (Zardoz) to Arthurian fantasy (Excalibur) to ecological adventure (The Emerald Forest) to le Carré portraiture (The Tailor of Panama)—finding time to make one sequel, to someone else’s film, that could hardly be any less like it (Exorcist II: The Heretic). Queen and Country… is a no-fuss companion piece to Hope and Glory, picking up where that one left off, as if no time had intervened between them at all.” And it’s “a gentle pleasure, going nowhere particularly fast.”

“Set this time in 1952, Queen and Country follows a now 18-year-old Billy Rohan (watchable newcomer Callum Turner), the protagonist of Hope and Boorman’s stand-in, as he starts his mandatory stint in the British Army,” writes Leslie Felperin in the Hollywood Reporter. “Given it’s comprised of episodic mini-dramas that don’t quite hang together about characters who aren’t particularly interesting, the film remains a disappointment whose flaws will only be magnified by a premiere at Cannes.”

“With Her Majesty’s finest off fighting the Commie front in Korea, Bill and his fellow platoon mates are desperate for a taste of action,” writes Adam Woodward at Little White Lies. “But with their deployment indefinitely delayed, the boys grow increasingly disenfranchised with the monotony of regimental life, and thoughts quickly turn to matters on the homefront. Enter Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton), the striking posh slice whom our Bill falls hopelessly in love with when she catches his eye at the theater. He sees pain in her eyes, and sure enough this fair damsel in in distress. But the more Bill chases her, the more inevitable it seems that his heart will be broken.”

“As Bill has grown, Britain has shrunk,” notes the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw: “The country’s finest hour is behind it, and what’s the point of all this peacetime square-bashing anyway? George VI’s health slips away; Britain finds itself on the verge of a new Elizabethan age, and Bill is part of a younger generation starting to rebel against all the flag-saluting, and unthinking obedience to the crumbling empire.” Bill’s “tricky mate Percy” is played “by Caleb Landry Jones; David Thewlis is very good as Company Sergeant Major Bradley, the grumpy stickler for rules and regulations. Pat Shortt steals the show as the incorrigible skiver Redmond…. David Hayman returns as Bill’s dad; Sinead Cusack replaces Sarah Miles playing his mum. It is likable, warm, accessible drama, though with touches of sentimentality and whimsy.”

In Variety, where Peter Debruge interviews Boorman, Scott Foundas finds that “Queen never reaches the lyrical heights of its predecessor—arguably one of the greatest of all films about childhood and war—but benefits from a vividly realized sense of time and place and a gallery of colorful supporting characters burnished with the warm glow of memory.”

“Boorman has apparently decided that Queen and Country will be his last film,” notes Fionnuala Halligan in Screen Daily. “If so, Queen and Country is a fitting, intimate curtain call on a long and a hugely dynamic and influential film career.”

Updates, 5/24: “In a way, the film didn’t have to be a direct sequel,” suggests Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist. “You could arguably lift Bill’s family, including his sister (now played by Vanessa Kirby), straight out without affecting the main narrative too much, but the film benefits from a sort of cumulative storytelling, giving fans of the first an immediate shorthand…. Queen and Country is hardly reinventing the wheel, but it’s charming, evocative and (mostly) well-performed, and were Boorman to continue with his autobiographical cycle, we’d certainly welcome further installments.”

“The friendship between Bill and Percy… is undoubtedly one of the film’s greatest assets,” argues Bénédicte Prot at Cineuropa. “The cheeky wit of that generation of troublemakers that was around at the start of Elizabeth II’s reign is even the main driving force behind the story… [W]e happily move on from one ill turn and from one ingenious bit of backchat to another… And it’s all interspersed with the odd summons to the office of Major Cross, played by a priceless Richard E. Grant, who proves once again that he is the uncontested king of the oh-so-British scornful pout. Indeed, every character, every impertinent comeback, every gesture is worth its weight in gold.”

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