Queen & Country
dir-scr John Boorman
prd John Boorman, Kieran Corrigan
with Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat Shortt, David Thewlis, Richard E Grant, Brian F O'Byrne, Tamsin Egerton, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Vanessa Kirby, Sinead Cusack, David Hayman, John Standing
release US 20.Feb.15, UK 12.Jun.15
14/UK 1h55
Queen & Country
In the system: Landry Jones and Turner

thewlis grant egerton
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Queen & Country Essentially a meandering collection of nostalgic anecdotes, this gentle military comedy-drama is somewhat undermined by its uneven performances and unfocused plot. But it's full of likeable characters and enjoyable moments. And it nicely continues the tradition of irreverent war movies.

After growing up during the Blitz, 19-year-old Bill (Turner) is conscripted for military service in 1952. After basic training, instead of heading to Korea as expected, he and his pal Percy (Landry Jones) are assigned to teach new recruits ad a base near London, and their irreverent approach to the job enrages their commanding officer (Thewlis), who continually reports them to the major (Grant). Meanwhile, Percy woos student nurse Sophie (Edwards), while Bill's hesitant romance with posh Oxford student Ophelia (Egerton) is maddeningly elusive.

Turner is solid at the centre of the film, offering a relaxed, wry presence that makes it easy for the audience to travel on his low-key voyage of self-discovery. By contrast, Landry Jones is hyperactive and so jittery that he's an annoying distraction from anything that might be going on, never settling into the character at all. Others play everything for comedy value (Shortt's unrepentant skiver and Grant's flustered commanding officer) or dramatic pathos (Thewlis' shell-shocked stickler), while the women merely get to be lovely and mysterious.

Writer-director Boorman is clearly writing from personal experience, so most of the mini-incidents and adventures have a ring of truth to them as well as heavily nostalgic overtones. He finds plenty of comedy in each situation, but there isn't much cinematic connective tissue holding this together as a movie. And without an overarching theme or enveloping emotional kick, everything just flits across the screen offering the occasional insight, some enjoyable characters and witty set-pieces.

Most intriguing is the subtle exploration of the major shift in British society from a well-ordered war machine under King George to a more individualistic post-war society under Queen Elizabeth. This is refreshingly understated in Bill and Percy's cheeky approach to authority, although their clashes with old-school officers feature fairly standard comedy material. Meanwhile, Boorman gets on with his rather random little anecdotes, underdeveloped relationships and goofy antics that never quite pay off. The film is amusing and often charming, but really needed a stronger sense of what it is.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 30.Sep.14

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