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Bloody Sunday

By Lee Gardner | Posted

On Jan. 30, 1972, British soldiers shot and killed 13 Catholic protesters in the streets of Derry, Northern Ireland. The event fueled the escalating conflict between Unionist and Republican forces for decades, and the hostile reception writer/director Paul Greengrass' new film received from some in the United Kingdom indicates it's still a flash point today. True, Bloody Sunday is unabashed in villainizing British forces (the commanders are callous; their troops execute unarmed civilians and plant evidence on corpses) and sympathizing with protest leader Ivan Cooper (a galvanic James Nesbitt) and his fellows. But Greengrass also makes clear from the first frames that the soldiers and the protesters were almost fated to clash with tragic results. Bloody Sunday is so compelling as a historical account that it is possible to overlook Greengrass' considerable accomplishment as a director. His use of handheld camera and a washed-out look gives the film a cinéma vérité feel. His use of brief interstitial blackouts instead of direct cuts creates a snapshot effect, making the scenes feel more like intermittent memories than re-creations. And his camera frequently shoots conversations between characters in long takes from the next room, creating an eavesdroppping intimacy that furthers his actors' attempts to humanize these men and women who haven't yet learned they're pawns.

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