Like John Boorman’s semi-autobiographical “Hope and Glory,” the sequel “Queen and Country” uses war as a backdrop for high jinks and easily healed heartbreak. Taking place nine years after Boorman’s 1987 film, which looked at the London Blitz of World War II through the eyes of a boy who doesn’t really understand the gravity of his situation, the new film presents the Korean War from the distant, somewhat sardonic perspective of a young British army conscript more interested in chasing women than defending democracy.
The saga’s now-almost-grown hero, Bill Rohan (here played by Callum Turner), is a baby-faced sergeant teaching typing on a British military base while waiting to be shipped off to combat in the early 1950s. Revolving around Bill’s friendship with fellow recruit and reprobate Percy (Caleb Landy Jones) and the hero’s doomed romance with a beautiful but unattainable member of the upper class (Tamsin Egerton), the film toggles, at times awkwardly, between scenes of romantic melodrama and episodes of sometimes coarse comedy, most of which derives from Percy’s theft of an antique clock from his regiment’s priggish commanding officer (Brian F. O’Byrne).
Another plot line, played mostly for laughs, has to do with Bill and Percy’s campaign – enabled by their company’s resident slacker, or “skiver” (Pat Shortt) – to embarrass a by-the-book officer named Bradley, portrayed by a nicely put-upon David Thewlis. When a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is applied to Bradley, a World War II veteran, late in the film, the offhandedness of it seems weird.
There’s a lot of that in “Queen and Country,” the title of which, like “Hope and Glory,” is delivered with a healthy dose of irony. War is not always tragic, Boorman seems to be saying, and sometimes everything really does turn out fine in the end. When a soldier returns from Korea with a leg blown off by a land mine, he cracks a joke about “putting his foot in it.”
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Featuring a reprise by David Hayman as Bill’s bumptiously patriotic father, Clive, and an updated version of older sister Dawn (Vanessa Kirby) – now married with children in Canada, but no less wild – the film is something of a chimera. A little too silly to be taken seriously, yet also too heavy to get all the laughs it very clearly craves, “Queen and Country” at least shows where Boorman’s schizoid, if less than wholly satisfying, sense of storytelling comes from.
Queen and Country
C+ Cast: Callum Turner, Caleb Landy Jones, Tamsin Egerton
Director: John Boorman
Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Rating: Unrated (Contains obscenity, nudity and a sex scene)
Chapel Hill: Chelsea.