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The Wind That Shakes The Barley
DVD disk
09.14.2007 By: Jason Adams
The Wind That Shakes The Barley order
Director:
Ken Loach

Actors:
Cillian Murphy
Padraic Delaney
Orla Fitzgerald

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Amidst the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s, a young doctor abandons his dreams of practicing medicine to join his brother, a leader in the Republican Army, and fight against the occupying English. However, as time passes and the conflict grows more and more complicated, the brothers must come to terms with their personal beliefs and decide exactly where their loyalties lie.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
With a title like THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, I was expecting to be snoozing within the first ten minutes. However, as the film ended two hours later, not only was I more awake than when it started, but I was emotionally drained in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. This is a gripping and powerful drama, and just a great movie altogether.

Winner of the Palme d’Or at last years Cannes Film Festival, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY is a grueling look at the complex and longstanding conflict between Ireland and England, as well as an example of the complexities and cost of war in general. The film touches on a wide breadth of the political, economic and religious conditions specific to the Irish situation. I didn't know much about the war aside from what was probably covered in half an hour of high school history class, but I feel like I got a good sense of the background and intricacies of the war—and presented in a compelling way that doesn’t feel like a history lesson or a moral sermon.

There have been plenty of movies that shine light on the obvious notion that “war is hell,” but WIND effectively showcases the honor in standing up for something you believe in, as well as the downfall and ultimate pointlessness of fighting. The English are clearly portrayed as the enemy given the film's point of view, but the Irish aren’t simply glorified as hero freedom fighters either (nor is the movie propaganda for the IRA in any way). If anything, the audience bears witness to the tragic similarities on both sides of the conflict and the grey area that emerges, even after a peace treaty has been signed.

Director Ken Loach has crafted a moving yet unrelenting drama, one that bounces back and forth between the visual beauty of the country and the terrible atrocities committed within. There’s more than one sequence that’s hard to watch (including a great example of how torture can be effective in storytelling, and not just for shits and giggles like in HOSTEL). However, these moments of brutal violence coincide with a very basic human story (and even a little not-overly-sentimental romance) and realistic characters, including fantastic performances by Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney as the brothers at the heart of the conflict.
THE EXTRAS
An educational commentary and a lengthy documentary on the filmmaker make the most out of the disc’s special features.

Commentary by director Ken Loach and Historical Advisor Donal O’Driscoll: Loach and Driscoll, a college professor who obviously knows his shit, give a lot of historical and cultural background beyond what is hinted at in the movie, showing the depth of the conflict as well as the film itself. Pretty much everything in the film is grounded in some historical fact, which makes for quite an informative commentary for those interested.

Carry On Ken (49:06): A retrospective documentary on Loach’s filmography containing interviews with former cast and crew members, all of whom praise Loach for “not being up his arse.” Brian Cox even makes an appearance, which thereby makes this feature worthwhile.

A Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
“It’s easy to know what you’re against; quite another to know what you’re for.” THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY is a powerful drama about the Irish-English war and the human condition that shaped and resulted from it. Highly recommended for history buffs or fans of the war genre. (And if you' think you’ve seen one war movie and seen them all, I ask you to reconsider.)

Extra Tidbit: The title comes from a traditional 19th century Irish song by Robert Dwyer Joyce which was popular amongst Irish Republicans.
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