Michael Collins … not worth the wait

Michael Collins starring Liam Neeson
Courtesy IMDB

In 1996, the movie Michael Collins was released, starring the gorgeous Liam Neeson. For some reason, I never got to see it at the time, and so it’s been on my wishlist ever since. Now I don’t normally like to bag books and movies – if I can’t say something nice, I prefer not to say anything – but we downloaded this movie last night through the T-Box, and as it is now 16 years old, I can’t damage it any further.

But why bother having a whinge if it’s in the past? I suppose the thing is, I can’t work out what was so wrong about it, or rather, why. Neeson’s co-stars are fairly well-respected: Julia Roberts, Stephen Reay, Alan Rickman, but the four of them couldn’t save this movie.

And it’s not like it was Director Neil Jordan’s first outing – he’d brought us the brilliant Crying Game four years previously. But the acting was wooden – even from Neeson in parts – and the scenes disconnected, the story too oft confusing and difficult to follow without an understanding of the politics of the time … and it just didn’t gel.

Now, I understand that all movies are a series of vignettes strung together to tell a story, but you could see the joins – or rather, the gaping holes between one vignette and the next. And so many of the vignettes were corny and trite. Michael Collins’ personality itself seemed to change from one scene to the next – sometimes he was a strong, fearless leader, other times an immature idiot, and at others an angry pacifist – but none of his personality turns made sense.

And the worst of it was there were two or three attempts to introduce a little levity to the story – a la the sort of light relief you’d get in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But it just didn’t fit at all.

It’s really sad, because I got the feeling from the movie that Michael Collins was probably a man whose life was worth celebrating in film, that he achieved things on the road to peace and possibly led by example, an individual who history has perhaps overlooked a little. Pity this movie didn’t help to rectify that.

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