Michael Collins [1996]

Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, Stephen Rea, Alan Rickman
Genre: Biography, Drama, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 133 minutes

Irish writer-director Neil Jordan followed up his surprise hit The Crying Game with this controversial biography of IRA leader Michael Collins (Liam Neeson), one of the most important political leaders of the 20th century. The film follows Collins as he matures from guerrilla leader to national hero and statesman. Jordan's take on Collins is that he was set up by Irish president Eamon De Valera (Alan Rickman), who was jealous of Collins's legendary popularity. De Valera puts Collins in the position of negotiating a peace treaty that would never satisfy the Irish hero's hard-core followers. When the IRA leader returns with a first-step compromise, De Valera undercuts Collins's popularity by refusing to support the revised treaty. And the civil war continues for decades. Michael Collins occasionally loses focus and momentum, but is the kind of exciting historical drama that deserves to be called "sweeping." It is also one of the most beautifully photographed films in years: cinematographer Chris Menges uses color and texture to set moods and accent emotions. The movie also stars Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, and Stephen Rea. --Jim Emerson

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