30 Day Film Challenge: Day Eight

Posted on May 2, 2011

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Michael Collins (1996)

The Film You Can Quote Best

I remember watching Michael Collins for history class in third year having never seen it before and thinking it was fantastic. Liam Neeson is immense in the lead role, Aidan Quinn the perfect jackeen as Harry Boland, Alan Rickman (after watching footage of the real De Valera) had the accent and mannerisms down to a T. The only thing that might have ruined the film was Julia Roberts. But then that can be said about so many films…

If you’re a De Valera fan though, you probably won’t hold Michael Collins in as high a regard as I.

It seems superfluous to praise the film as a film when today is all about the quotes but suffice to say, it’s pretty impossible not to love this film if you’re Irish and have a single patriotic bone in your body. The humour of the film fits nicely with the gravitas of the situation.

My favourite scene of the movie is when Joe O’Reilly (Ian Hart) bursts into the dance hall to inform Collins that the British have called a truce. Neeson’s face tells the whole story, shows the weight of what such an announcement means. As he says himself, “we brought the Brittish Empire to its knees?” The scene continues to show him rush over to Boland and Kitty where they celebrate on the dance floor – a scene so realistic that it brings a tear to the eye.

I always compare it to a similar scene in Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley where the same news is imparted to a group and, while I can’t remember it exactly, they more or less shake each others hands and slap backs and generall act as if they’ve just won the Junior B county final.

Maybe that’s just me – maybe Loach’s underplaying of the scene is more powerful than Jordan’s admittedly Hollywoodised attempt. But if I’d been in their shows and news like that had just floated in, I’d have been looking distinctly more Jordan-esque about my celebration.

But enough about the film as a whole, I’m only here for the quotes:

  • “You’ve kept us waiting 700 years. You can have your seven minutes.”
  • “Stand up! I’ll make a fucking army out of you if it’s last thing I do.”
  • “Our friends at the Royal Irish Constabulary would like to shut me up. Oh yes! Jail me again, shoot me, who knows? But I’d like you to send them a message. If they shut me up, who’ll take my place?”
  • “So? What did you have breakfast? Bit of a traffic jam here lads. I think if you backed up then we could back up and sure you can chase us some more.”
  • “Riddled! Riddled? What are you going around riddling people for? Ten or twenty bullets when the one would do! Jesus lads, would you try to remember, they don’t grow on trees!”
  • “You mean we’ve won? Lloyd George has thrown in the towel? We’ve brought the British Empire to its knees? Why the fuck didn’t you say so?”