Neil Jordan returns to the strife-torn Irish political landscape for this real-life epic set in 1920 and starring Liam Neeson as the legendary Irish revolutionary leader and Julia Roberts as his headstrong fiancee.
Kathy J. (Frances) from RINDGE, NH Reviewed on 2/10/2011...
I learned a lot. Well done.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jordan and Neeson's crowning achievements.
D. Mok | Los Angeles, CA | 10/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Digging back into their roots, director Neil Jordan and actor Liam Neeson have respectively delivered their most memorable and deep-cutting works to date. Michael Collins has nagging flaws, but in the sweep of the passionate filmmaking and performances, all else is moot. You will be carried forth by the conviction of the story.Neeson was simply born to play this role. An actor of tremendous power, Neeson is here given a role that's multi-dimensional enough for him to show his formidable chops. The Michael Collins character is alternately a boyish, dashing ladykiller and a tactician with a steel will, and just watching Neeson tackle the character's inner and outer demons is worth the price of the movie. He indeed projects the power and charisma of a great leader in his "our refusal" speech. There's more -- Aidan Quinn gives his best performance as friend-turned-enemy Harry Boland; Alan Rickman utilizes his deadpan comic timing and hidden deviance to perfection as Eamon de Valera; Stephen Rea is great as usual as English traitor Ned Broy. The one weak link is of course Julia Roberts, as Harry and Mick's love interest Kitty, with her bad Irish accent and vacant presence. She's paralyzed by the scope of the historical drama and comes off stiff as a result, injecting the character with neither warmth nor power, and none of her signature girlish exuberance. However, this was one case where the filmmaker's sacrifice of a character was to the benefit of the film. In directing the film, Jordan sliced down Kitty's importance and makes her mostly a footnote; the result is that we are now free to interpret Mick and Harry's split as a philosophical and political one, rather than the ol' romantic triangle. And for the better.The cinematography is terrific, and the script ranks among my favourite of the '90s. Jordan is deeply tapped into the behaviour and concerns of these characters, and he fills every minute with humour, danger, urgency, and personality. The writing translates onto the screen beautifully, giving the audience an insight into not only the sociological scape of the film, but also the psychological. And the pacing and editing never let up -- from the perfectly chosen "in medias res" opening to the brilliant "Bloody Sunday" assassination montage. A great neglected classic."
A much better film than I had imagined...
Gregor von Kallahann | 06/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a shame that whenever this film is mentioned nowadays, it's almost always referred to as a Julia Roberts flop. It's actually scarcely a Julia Roberts film at all. Her role is quite minor-and it's commendable that she took it on, really, since she was already a star. I gather she was looking for serious roles in meaty films in an effort to beef up her acting credentials. And this certainly was a meaty film. It is, in fact, a much, much better film than I had ever imagined from the reviews of the time. I only regret never having seen it on the big screen, because its epic sweep and beautiful cinematography would have been all the more impressive.Americans, including Irish-Americans like myself, have only the vaguest notions of Irish history. We learn the basics in school, and probably, most educated Americans have an idea of approximately when and how the Irish Republic was established. We may also know that six counties in the North remained under British rule and are still part of the UK (at least, I hope we do--after 30 years of reports on the "troubles"). "Michael Collins" goes some distance toward filling in those informational gaps. I am aware that many critics have challenged writer/director Neil Jordan's interpretation of Irish history (in particular his making Eamon De Valera, the President of the Irish Republic, something of a villain). To that, one can only respond that historical dramas are by definition an interpretation of history. I see that a few of the reviewers below have mentioned that this film inspired them to seek out more information about Irish history. Those of us that do will eventually get a more balanced view, perhaps. It was not Neil Jordan's job to provide us with that perspective. His job as an artist was to tell as engaging a story as he could. On that score, he has succeeded very well indeed."
Michael J. Berquist | 02/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Historical films are notoriously inaccurate. ("Braveheart", for example, is a terrific movie but all over the place historically.) Drama, after all, is oftentimes inconsistent with the tides of history. Which was why I was so impressed to read a magazine article some time ago touting the film's attention to detail and accuracy. I made a special note of wanting to see "Michael Collins". Am I ever glad I did. This is a wonderful, wonderful movie."Michael Collins" is the story of a member of the Irish Republican Army who succeeded in leading Ireland to independence, but at great cost. A participant in the famous "Easter Rising" of 1916, Collins was arrested and became a leader in the Irish independence movement. Collins was an extraordinary leader who devised guerilla warfare tactics to fight the English army that would later be used by the Viet Cong, and daringly rescued Eamon DeValeria, the man who would become the leader of Ireland and whom many believe was responsible for Collins death. Collins also negotiated the treaty which ended 700 years of English rule in Ireland, and as Commander of the Irish Provisional Army was forced to fight against guerillas opposed to the treaty (which left the northern six counties a part of England and delayed full independence). The irony was that Collins was forced to hunt down and kill the very men he trained. Many in Ireland look on Collins as a hero, others as a traitor. His death is, like the Kennedy assassination, a great controversy- nobody has the faintest idea who killed him. As historical figures go, few are as controversial or as romanticized as Collins. The film covers the 1916-1922 era of Collins life, from the Easter Rising until his death.Writer & Director Neil Jordan clearly has passion for the project and it shows. Collins is a real hero to Jordan and the director goes to great lengths to be as accurate as possible and to show us Collins in action. Perhaps Jordan's best move was in casting Liam Neeson in the part. Neeson is a very talented actor who delivers a terrific performance in the title role. Neeson's Collins is firey, angry, passionate, hates war, longs for peace. It is hard to imagine anyone else in the part.The rest of the cast is good- Alan Rickman is impressive as Eamon DeValeria, a difficult role to play given how much DeValeria and Collins are at odds with one another in the end. Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, and Stephen Rea are all also good in their supporting roles as Collins best friend, the woman the two men compete for, and the English agent who provides Collins with critical intelligence.In terms of location and cinematography, it is hard to do better than this. Jordan has painstakingly recreated Ireland & Dublin of 1916-1922, and it looks stunningly beautiful and stunningly realistic. One actually feels like you are seeing the real Ireland of the early part of the century instead of a recreation."Michael Collins" is a wonderful film that history lovers and people fascinated with Ireland will adore. Highly recommended."
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 09/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In an episode of the 1980's cop drama "Miami Vice," Liam Neeson put in an appearance as an IRA terrorist-or at least I think he did if memory serves me correctly. Perhaps his depiction of an Irish tough on television laid the foundation for his work in Neil Jordan's 1996 bio pic "Michael Collins." The 1990s saw several films about the "Troubles," the word often used to describe the unremitting conflict in Northern Ireland, arrive in theaters. Maybe the hopes of a lasting peace in the troubled region during the last decade, as the IRA agreed to lay down their arms on several occasions, inspired Hollywood. I don't know. Whatever the case, armchair fans of Ireland had plenty to look at in the Cineplex for a few years. While I haven't seen most of these films, I have seen "Michael Collins" several times over the last eight years, and it is difficult to imagine any of these other pictures surpassing this one in any way, shape, or form. Jordan's picture is an inspired piece of work, a beautiful yet politically complex look at how the IRA came to function as an urban guerilla operation in their efforts to secure a unified Ireland free of British oversight and influence.
The film starts on a dramatic tone as Irish rebels battle British troops in the Easter Uprising of 1916. This rebellion fails despite the fact that most of England's resources are tied up in the war raging on the continent. Most of the upstarts-including Michael Collins (Neeson), Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn), and Eamon de Valera (Alan Rickman)-march off to lengthy prison sentences. The perceived ringleaders aren't as lucky: the British line up most of these chaps against the wall and gun them down. Eamon de Valera is one of the few higher ups to survive in large part because he was born in America. With their leadership decimated, Collins and his associates await their release dates so they can continue the fight with the British. It doesn't take long for the rebels to reconstitute a command structure once they get out, but the failed revolt has left its mark on many of the participants. Two schools of strategy emerge concerning future operations for freedom. De Valera and others seek to once again arise and duke it out with the English just as they did in 1916. Collins knows this option will lead to another loss and further prison sentences. He supports taking the war underground by resorting to guerilla warfare in the streets and alleys of Ireland. By striking and then hiding, Collins believes the Irish movement has a much better chance of forcing the British to the bargaining table.
Collins gets his chance to launch a bloody campaign against the British when the Irish leadership heads off to jail again. With the assistance of Harry Boland, he persuades groups of young toughs to raid armories for weapons. He also manages to acquire the secret loyalty of an Irish cop working for the British, Ned Broy (Stephen Rea), to allow him access to the mountains of police files on Irish resistance groups. With an inside view of what the English will do before they even do it, Collins's campaigns of violence become amazingly effective. His boys wipe out a special detachment of Brits sent in to quell unrest. They assassinate police officers and officials. Collins is generally safe from the authorities due to a host of reasons, the least of which include his support from the people and the fact that the cops have no clue what he looks like. How the British didn't know Michael Collins on sight considering he spent time in jail is something I can't explain, but nonetheless his terror missions serve their purpose. The British seek a resolution to the conflict, and Eamon de Valera charges Collins with the task of acting as the Irish emissary. This decision is an adroit political move on de Valera's part, and one that has lasting and violent consequences for the future of Ireland.
I liked everything about "Michael Collins" even though the movie suffers under the onerous burden of two key problems. First, the entire subplot involving Harry Boland, Collins, and an Irish lass named Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts) tends to grate. I'm sure the studio insisted on putting a romance theme in the movie in order to sell more tickets and to temper the strident political message, but doing so detracts from the power of the film. Second, historical accuracy occasionally flies out the window in lieu of dramatic license. Witness the sporting event where the British drive an armored car onto the field and promptly gun down the athletes and fire into the crowd. The documentary on the film appended to the DVD discusses this depiction in some depth, and even Jordan admits the event didn't happen exactly the way he portrayed it. But what's good works wonders. Neeson is magnificent as the revolutionary both brutal in his outrages and horrified at the results. Rickman plays de Valera with a sinister silkiness. These two actors are so good at what they do that Rea and Quinn often fade into the background. The locations and set pieces look authentic.
Unfortunately, the extras don't live up to the film. You get a trailer and the aforementioned documentary (which does run for nearly an hour, at least) and that's it. I would have taken the DVD release of this film as an excuse to add a bunch of information about the Irish struggle for independence. C'est la vie, I guess. Whatever the case, the movie is definitely worth the price of the DVD. "Michael Collins" is a film I watch whenever I get the chance, and I will continue to do so well into the future.
A Film That Truly Changed My Life
Sara | OK, USA | 11/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's tough to rate and accurately review a movie that means a great deal intellectually and emotionally. It was October of 1996 when I watched this film at the theater and I walked out forever changed. Prior to viewing the film, I had no idea about the life of Collins and I did not realize how young Irish independence truly is. Both the tragic elements of Collins's death and Liam Neeson's stirring performance led me to learn more about the life and times of Collins by voraciously reading anything I could find on the topic. It can be a rare thing for a historical film to pack a punch that seems relevant to modernity, but _Michael Collins_ does just that.
The plot, essentially, is this: A young man named Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) and his close friend Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) are working for the cause of Irish independence. At the beginning of the film, they are taking part in the Easter Rising. A vivid and riveting portrayal of the executions faced by the Rising's leaders is juxtaposed with Eamon DeValera (Alan Rickman) writing a letter to Collins explaining ostensibly why he would not be killed (he was of American birth). Michael travels around the country and works tirelessly with Harry for the cause. He is thrown in jail, he is beaten during a campaign speech and he meets an intriguing woman, Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts). Collins falls for her but Harry does too. Initially, she is dating Boland but in time, her heart goes to Collins. During this romance, Collins is both running from death and ordering it for his opponents. He taps the resource of Ned Broy (Stephen Rea) a veritable double-agent working as a G-man. Collins is chosen to negotiate on the Irish side of treaty talks, though this event is covered rapidly in the film. He returns home and is engaged to Kitty only to find that he and Harry are on the opposite sides of whether the Anglo-Irish Treaty should be ratified. There is plenty of drama and some comic relief here and there. I won't go into the details of the ending, though I am sure most people reading this review already know or can guess how the story concludes.
If you are interested in Irish history or "war films" in general, _Michael Collins_ is a film for you. If you view it and find yourself as drawn into the actual biography of Collins as I did, I highly suggest you pick up a good book on the subject. Though the film makes for an excellent introduction, it can in no way compare to the wealth of real, tangible information out there."