Thursday, March 18, 2010

BLOODY SUNDAY (2002) - Paul Greengrass

Bloody Sunday is the second Northern Ireland "Troubles" movie directed by a Brit. For those unfamiliar with the U2 anthem, it concerns the 1972 civil rights protest march in Derry, Ireland that ended in 27 protesters wounded and 13 dead by the guns of the British militia.

Greengrass attacks the subject matter like a true documentarian, newsreel footage style. There's not a lot of plot here, mostly just mounting tension and a countdown to massacre as a member of Parliament (a multi-tasking James Nesbitt) goes about town trying to organize a peaceful protest while British forces show up with more and more artillery and increasingly itchy trigger fingers. Other than two briefly explored Catholic-Protestant romantic entanglements, Bloody Sunday eschews the personal in favor of the political, all shot with Greengrass's now-trademark panicked camera.

But this is the man's forte. Greengrass truly has a knack for mass confusion in moments of crisis. A few minutes into Bloody Sunday with its jumpy tracking shots, rooms full of politicos and generals yelling and talking over one another, you know why he was the right man forUnited 93. My only stylistic beef was with his rampant use of quick fade-outs, which became disconcerting and headache-inducing. With the protest timeline already cut to shreds with habitual jump cuts and cross-cutting, the fade-outs seemed entirely unnecessary, pulling you out of the film each time like a bad bulb in the projector. Thankfully, he seems to have dropped this method in the later films.

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