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Adapting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Part II

I watched many submarine films when researching Nemo’s Fury, but the film that most informed the background of our protagonist, O’Connor, is a gritty Irish western called Black ’47.

A bitter, brutal and brilliant Irish revenge thriller, it swaps the Wild West of the USA for Ireland’s bleak midwinter of 1847.

It’s an impressively physical and taciturn performance by Aussie actor, James Frecheville, as the veteran, Martin Feeney, who begins to wage a one-man war across Ireland and has his sights set on Jim Broadbent’s callously indifferent British lord of the manor.

Feeney is a soldier who’s returned home from fighting for the British Empire overseas, he finds the remains of his family in desperate circumstances due to the potato famine and the despotic land clearances of the English aristocracy which have exacerbated the situation.

With Feeney on the rampage Freddie Fox’s foppish sergeant is sent to hunt him down, and recruits a former army colleague of the renegade, a disgraced policeman played with sinister aplomb by Hugo Weaving.

During the course of his personal vendetta, Feeney’s patriotic shift is clear in his reverting to using his native language, and those caught in his violent wake also experience a political radicalisation.

One such example is Barry Keoghan’s squaddie, whose conscience-driven actions suggests the working classes on either side of the Irish Sea have a great deal of common cause against the English landed gentry.

Adopting a suitably spartan style, director Lance Daly brings a harsh mournful beauty and mythic overtones to the magnificently photographed epic landscapes, while not forgetting to feature plenty of shoot-outs and horse rides.

A lean script doesn’t waste a word of dialogue is full of contemporary concerns such as bigotry, torture, the clash of religions and a refugee crisis. It also includes moments of gallows humour and there’s a novel use for a pig’s head, which even the members of England’s Eton-educated political class might shy away from.

Though lacking the romance, melodrama or grandstanding speeches of Mel Gibson’s Oscar winner, this is very much an Irish Braveheart, and is intense, timely and terrific.


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