'Movie Review' - 'Michael Collins'

Review Fighting Irish Neeson brings history to life in 'Michael Collins'

BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Irish hero Michael Collins invented urban guerrilla warfare. Today we'd call it terrorism.

It's a dark legacy and an irony not lost on Collins' admirers, although they insist he never endorsed killing innocents. One admirer is Neil Jordan, writer-director of this film about a savage but charismatic icon of Irish history.

The failed Easter Uprising of 1916 landed Collins in prison along with his best friend Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) and Eamon De Valera (Alan Rickman).

As the British escalated efforts to crush the rebellion, Collins created a fierce strike force to assassinate British agents and enforce internal discipline. He also fell in love with Boland's girl, Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts).

His tactics forced the British to the negotiating table, but he could not win true independence. His failure touched off a civil war that set him against Boland and De Valera. The film suggests that, when the 31-year-old Collins was assassinated in 1922, he was secretly trying to end the civil war.

Mr. Jordan has said he never imagined anyone in the lead role but Liam Neeson. His faith was well-placed. Physically, Mr. Neeson is sturdy and energetic as a street brawler, with a face both boyish and haunted. Emotionally, he fills the screen with restrained passion, a man who seems at once on fire and in tears.

Mr. Neeson's performance is matched by the finely detailed look and feel of Mr. Jordan's direction, and the melancholy Dublin he has re-created.

IF YOU GO:

Michael Collins

3 stars

(R; violence, language) Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea, Julia Roberts. 138 minutes. At National Amusements.