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Sunday, July 17, 2016

QUEEN & COUNTRY (2014)

Writer/director John Boorman set the bar impossibly high on himself by making a sequel to his WWII childhood memory pic, HOPE AND GLORY/’87. Returning to his sentimental education after 27 years, the schoolboy from the earlier film is now a decade older, a self-portrait of a young man newly conscripted into the army. Korea looms for many, but Boorman’s alter-ego remains stuck in, of all things, a standard-issue service comedy. Hunting, much like today’s John Boorman, for fresh aspects to Quonset hut life & drill routine tropes Abbot & Costello might recognize; overseen by Captain Queeg-like petty officers. (And a regimental clock standing in for Queeg’s famous missing strawberries.) Fortunately, Boorman has the real life experience to quickstep past the hoariest bits, along with cinematic know-how & a topnotch cast. (Richard E. Grant’s C.O. even gets a bit of human nuance.) Halfway thru, the gags grow into something more specific, emotionally complex and conflicted. (Eccentric homelife is a major plus, though a tangent involving an upper class beauty feels tacked on.) A likely swansong for this sometimes demanding director, it ends with a 16mm camera grinding to a stop. But as one quoted reviewer says in an ad, ‘Leaves you wanting more.’ A line that cuts two ways.

DOUBLE-BILL: Obviously HOPE AND GLORY, but check out Neil Simon/Mike Nichols’ BILOXI BLUES/88 for a service comedy that finds new drama in old tropes.

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