CAPSULE: The year is 1952 and Bill Rowan, the main character from 1987's HOPE AND GLORY, is now an adult drafted into the army to fight in the Korean War. The impudent ten-year-old is now an impudent soldier teaching other soldiers to type. He is a friend of Percy, a real rebel and together they do their best to make trouble and incidentally to find love. John Boorman, who wrote and directed HOPE AND GLORY writes and directs the further adventures of Rowan. QUEEN AND COUNTRY is entertaining enough, but military hi-jinx and romance are just not nearly as fresh a premise as was his sense-of-wonder-view of World War II through the eyes of a boy. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
The credit "Directed by John Boorman" is rarely seen these days on the American screen. As often as not, his films seem to go off the rails into his own esoteric territory. While he was well-regarded for DELIVERANCE, fewer film fans had much use for ZARDOZ. And while EXORCIST II placed THE EXORCIST in a larger and more interesting context, it was not where fans of the original film wanted to go. EXCALIBUR started well and then made a left turn into the surreal. His 2001 THE TAILOR OF PANAMA used a screen James Bond actor but rather punctured the Bond mythos with a more realistic secret agent.
In 1987 Boorman had made HOPE AND GLORY, which looked with a child's sense of amazement at England's home front in World War II. Particularly memorable was a sequence with an errant barrage balloon that may well have been the high point of the war for the boy's family and friends. Boorman has now written and directed a sequel to HOPE AND GLORY.
Bill Rowan, once that boy who looked with such wonder on a barrage balloon and all his other artifacts of the war, is now grown up and serving the title entities as a soldier preparing to be sent to Korea. Bill, now played by Callum Turner, has an opportunity to see a war from the inside. He was hoping to have avoided conscription, and his new masters intend to send him to the not at all desirable battlefront in Korea. Right now they want him to teach recruits typing. The problem is that he has no respect for the army and likes to lapse into anti-military diatribe for his typing students. But his chaos is more than matched by that of the like-minded Percy Hapgood (Caleb Landry Jones). David Thewlis, always a good actor, plays Bradley, their commanding officer who bullies the men in the name of army discipline and is in turn bullied by his C.O., Major Cross (Richard E. Grant).
Callum Turner is agreeable as the lead but there seems to be little emotional connectivity between this film's Bill Rowan and that of the earlier film. We see a little more of the dynamics of his family (all but one played by different actors) but none of them seem to really be recognizably the same characters we had seen in the first film. Turner and Jones seem to compete to be the main character of the film and in the end it is Jones who seems the most memorable. Tamsin Egerton plays Ophelia who makes an elegant love interest for Rowan.
What is disappointing about the film is that it does not do what HOPE AND GLORY did. The 1987 film showed us the home front and let us see how the war could be full of exhilaration and wonderment to a ten year old. But films about insubordinate military men with unreasonable officers are nothing new. This film is really a British equivalent to M.A.S.H. or MISTER ROBERTS or any of several others. In fact, the captain and his palm in MISTER ROBERTS is mirrored by the regimental sergeant major and his clock.
While Boorman's HOPE AND GLORY will be remembered when QUEEN AND COUNTRY is forgotten, the new film is never less than entertaining and makes a few scattered serious points. I rate QUEEN AND COUNTRY a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2392810/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/queen_and_country/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper