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Saturday, September 19, 2015

MICHAEL COLLINS (1996)

Large-scale biopic from Neil Jordan, on the eponymous Irish revolutionary, stages some impressive urban battles scenes & mass panic (he gets in/gets out without showing off), but comes a cropper on the intimate stuff. Liam Neeson proves a fine, even inevitable Collins, but Jordan takes a disastrous turn tying political action to a collapsed ménage à trois between Collins, best pal Aidan Quinn and a painfully miscast Julia Roberts. (JULES AND JIM/’62, anyone? Or is it DESIGN FOR LIVING/’33?) Roberts was shoe-horned in as box-office insurance (not that it helped), but how to explain political committee meetings with all the engagement of an audio-animatronics test? Or why Alan Rickman's rival independence leader Eamon de Valera is all stage whispers & melodramatic pauses. Weak as this sounds, the story is so darn fascinating you’re pulled in anyway. Especially during the first half, when the fight is against British rule (there's a standout turn from Charles Dance as an over-confident British commander and an amazing one from Stephen Rea’s volunteer informer) rather than the last act’s deadly Irish vs. Irish endgame.

DOUBLE-BILL: Neeson’s ROB ROY/’95, from the previous year, did triple the biz (and deserved it), but got a little bit lost behind the inexplicable BRAVEHEART/’95 juggernaut.

CONTEST: What Hollywood leading man of the ‘30s spent his teens as courier for the real Michael Collins? The first correct answer wins a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of your choice. (No Googling, please.)

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