John Boorman wrote and directed “Queen and Country,” a beautiful film that he claims is his final movie (though, during the in-person talk that followed Tuesday’s screening at the Aero, he hedged a bit when asked about the veracity of that claim).
At 82, Boorman is as entertaining and energetic a storyteller as ever. “Queen and Country” is a follow up to his autobiographical “Hope and Glory” (1987), but it stands entirely on its own. It is much more than simply Boorman’s engaging tale of his coming of age. It is a vivid view of history, set in a time period not extensively depicted on film. Film history classes tend to offer a more complete concept of a time period than history books, and this film proves the point. In fact, you will be reminded that history is so much more than just battles, murders, spies and political subterfuge.
“Queen and Country” teems with Boorman’s signature style as a director. In weaving a seemingly straightforward story, he manages to color your emotions by the rich hues he orchestrates in each scene. Cinematographer Seamus Deasy and production designer Tony Pratt — with whom Boorman has often worked since 1968 — create superb settings: the olive greens of the army barracks, the deep gem tones around the River Thames, the warmth of the dance hall and the milk bar. Composer Steven McKeon has perfectly matched the emotions that carry the story without overpowering it.
Boorman’s actors are exquisitely cast and fearless. Boorman says that he directs actors in the same way he would connect with children — each actor needs a unique style of communication to feel at ease. Callum Turner is fascinating to watch as the observer “Bill,” Boorman’s alter ego. Caleb Landry Jones nearly jumps out of the screen as the smart-aleck buddy, “Percy,” yet never goes over the line — he portrays an underlying insecurity that he hides with crazy antics. Tamsin Egerton and Amie Fflon Edwards give subtle performances as the girls who beguile the young soldiers. Egerton, as the “unattainable” society girl, symbolizes a weak, dying social structure based on nobility. David Thewlis as the rigid “Sergeant Bradley” has the skill to paint an angry, embittered character who gives us a window into the tragic background that shaped him. Boorman captures this in one second, early in the film, in a twitch of Thewlis’ eye when gunshots are heard through a window during target practice.
What Boorman does best in his films is to set up a collision of cultures from different ages or backgrounds. There are no bombs or explosions in this film. However, in “Queen and Country,” those who are coming of age in the early ’50s come face to face with the rigid sociological walls set up by the older generation who had lived through the fear and devastation of World War II in London. Boorman sets this stage, and we watch his characters walk through minefields of passion, yet come through with “hope and glory” in the end.
Not Rated. 115 Minutes. Opens Feb. 27 at the Laemmle Royal in West L.A.
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. She can be reached at email@example.com.