It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Cillian Murphy, especially in his role as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders, which explains why my thoughtful other half bought me a couple of earlier films in which Murphy had taken a lead role. We watched one of them last week, ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’.
Directed by Ken Loach, and set in Ireland in 1920, the film depicts the struggle of two brothers against the ‘Black and Tans’, a violent military unit sent by the British government to crush Ireland’s bid for independence. By God, crush they did.
I’m so accustomed to seeing Brits portrayed as ‘good guys’ and Irish with Republican or Loyalist views as terrorists that the story grabbed my attention from the first frame. The story rings with the grim truth that violence begets violence. How else could a decent man, Damien, (Cillian Murphy) a doctor, abandon a promising career, and ultimately the love of his life, for the cause in which he believes and that would inevitably put him on a collision course with his brother, Teddy?
An intriguing aspect of the film is that Teddy (Padraic Delaney) starts out as the radical, who subverts his peaceful and law-abiding brother, only to fall in with a diplomatic solution offered by the British later. By this time, Damien has already seen and done too much. There is a pivotal point in the film when he is forced to shoot a young informer. It’s a gut-wrenching moment that pretty much destroys him.
If I had one criticism, a bit of judicious cutting and the inclusion of more scenes on camera to convey the disintegrating relationship between the two brothers and the tumble into sectarianism would have strengthened the storyline. I longed to see more clearly Teddy’s gradual change from radical to peacemaker and Damien’s ‘my way, or the high way’. This thought provoking, compelling and memorable film could have been a truly great one. Nevertheless it’s one to treasure, catch it if you can.