‘You’ve given the IRA the biggest victory it will ever have…’
Paul Greengrass (Filmmaker. Not to be confused with Claude Greengrass – disheveled old man from Heartbeat) has never been my favourite director. I enjoyed elements of the Bourne franchise, but I find Greengrass’ directorial style to be distracting rather than revolutionary. I’ve also never really got on with James Nesbitt. He was too happy in the ’90s (isn’t that a Calvin Harris song?), too much of a cheeky chap. He has become pleasingly miserable in his later years however, and Bloody Sunday perhaps marks the moment when that transition began.
Ivan Cooper (Nesbitt) is an MP in the troubled city of Derry who is desperate to ensure that a peaceful protest march through the city remains violence free. The British army, led by Major General Robert Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith), have other ideas, and begin to open fire on IRA members and civilians alike.
Firstly, I don’t know anywhere near enough about the Troubles to pass comment on this film’s historical accuracy, but I do know a bit about cinema, and Bloody Sunday is a tour de force of righteous anger and unspeakable horror. Greengrass films this minor masterpiece in documentary style, and while this has the potential to feel gimmicky, instead Bloody Sunday grabs the viewer by the neck and shoves them into the mean streets of Derry – gunshots, nail bombs and all. Nesbitt puts in a quietly selfless performance, allowing the gravitas of the story and the gritty realism of the filming style to really shine through.
Bloody Sunday clearly has an agenda, but it also appears to be extensively researched and meticulously filmed to be as accurate as possible. Most importantly, this is just great cinema. A powerful and affecting expose of a series of terrible crimes committed by both sides. An emotionally difficult, but ultimately rewarding watch.