Michael Collins – Review

Michael Collins

With Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, Aidan Quinn
Written and directed by Neil Jordan
by Barbara Restaino

Mr. Liam “I received initial stardom by playing a German so maybe it’ll work again if I play a Scot and now I’m beating a dead national hero by playing an Irishman” Neeson does exactly what is expected of him. A strong actor with looming presence, Neeson turns out a decent performance while Julia Roberts and Aidan Quinn are overshadowed by young, charismatic newcomers. If Rob Roy is a stiff drink, Michael Collins is merely amber-colored water.

Momentary glimpses of Irish history and a timeline of Collins’s life just aren’t enough to crack open his world, which was pretty damn revolutionary. Nothing falls into the gut. Nothing made me understand his actions. “Give us our future. You’ve had enough of our past” didn’t stimulate my admittedly far-from-Irish blood to rally and bubble in my heart, in part because the film offers little explanation of Collins’ motivation. Even in the midst of action sequences and intense political debate, director Neil Jordan manages to dilute the story of a dynamic figure in the clash between the British government and an angry Irish nation.

Collins, after returning from prison – a result of the Easter Uprising (A.K.A. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”) – enlists a group of young patriots and turns them into assassins. With the help of Harry Boland (Quinn) and Eamon de Valera, they manage to corner the British into cutting a deal. But this isn’t enough for Boland and De Valera, who revolt in the name of northern Ireland, a move Ireland still feels the repercussions of today.

Somewhere in this soup, Neeson steals Roberts away from Quinn, who sounds like a cross between Clint Eastwood and Jerry Seinfeld attempting an Irish brogue. Both Roberts and Quinn crank out forgettable performances, although I can forgive Roberts because how can you be anything but trite as the token love interest?

Although the movie left me speechless only because I saw it alone, I wasn’t figiting in my seat, looking at my watch as if I was in 5 pm traffic. I did enjoy learning more about Irish history and a man who helped change the nation’s destiny. For this and the fact that I didn’t have to pay to see the film I am grateful.