By Don Simpson | February 27, 2015
Director: John Boorman
Writer: John Boorman
Starring: Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat Shortt, David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant, Vanessa Kirby, Tamsin Egerton, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Miriam Rizea, Sinéad Cusack, David Hayman, John Standing, Brían F. O’Byrne, David Michael Claydon, Tom Stuart, Alfie Stewart, Gerran Howell
A very long nine years have elapsed since John Boorman’s Hope and Glory (1987); the year is 1952, and the nine-year-old tyke who previously served as our eyewitness to his family’s survival of the German blitz is now eighteen years old. The timing is quite unfortunate for Bill (Callum Turner), because Queen and Country finds him old enough to be recruited to fight in the Korean War. Boorman makes it abundantly clear that the Cold War propaganda of the Korean conflict does not hold a candle to graveness of Britain’s involvement in World War I and II; whereas the World Wars were clearly a threat to the British Isles, the Communist threat in Korea is not nearly as threatening.
Bill is utilized as an avatar for Boorman’s personal politics, as well as his history. He is a teenager who’s agenda is still in flux, but he certainly knows that the Korean War is not something that he supports. Luckily, when Bill is drafted, he ends up a sergeant instructor. He befriends a rebellious rapscallion, Percy (Caleb Landry Jones), who opts to express his disagreement with the war in much different ways from Bill. No matter what, both Bill and Percy are thorns in their commanding officer’s (David Thewlis) side.
To ease the pain of military life, Bill becomes enamored by a woman he fittingly names Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton). Though their romance is severely stilted (for many reasons), at least Ophelia is able to share a mutual appreciation for Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, though her interpretation of the film is much more feminist than Bill’s — Bill is enthralled by the multi-perspective narrative structure, while Ophelia fixates on the recurring fate of the female character.
While Queen and Country presents an irreverent perspective on England’s monarchy and military, Boorman’s film is a bit too silly and lighthearted for its message to really take hold; it certainly lacks the satirical propensity and intensity of Robert Altman’s MASH. Boorman’s film attempts to combine the coming of age comedies of John Hughes with Ivan Reitman’s Stripes, but he tones everything down a few too many notches. For better or worse, Caleb Landry Jones is the only one who seems to *get the absurd silliness of it all — either that or he is acting from a completely different script. Sure, Percy is intended to play the wild man to Bill’s straight man, but their performances are so polarizing that it is disconcerting. Oh, and enough about that missing clock already… We get that time is of the essence, but that subplot is a bit ridiculous.