Paul Greengrass filmography is rooted in history. His films between 1989 to 2002 were based on true events and incidents that occurred in Britain even tackling American History later in his career. Greengrass sticks closely to true stories depicting them with as much respect as possible. Despite being a film made for British television it has the same quality of a Greengrass film.
Bloody Sunday is a dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972. Unfolding in real time we’re able to see exactly how the incident went about from the views of both the protesters and British troops. Giving the exact mindset from both sides desire to avoid the worse case scenario. Jumping back between the two allows it to depict events that occurred before the incident, during the incident, and what occurred directly after the event. Seeing history unfold right before us. All the while being more than capable to challenge the action taken by British troops and protesters with some simple acts. For example, it is depicted in the film a small group of protesters reacting with violent backlash against military power going away from the large peaceful marchers. Meanwhile, on other side we hear uproar in the area as soldiers attempt to discuss on how to act to the situation. Showing the fault in the way both sides preceded to do things. It’s in the third act where some simple scenes take a turn for the politically corrupt without demonizing the British troops. While the third act does attempt to highlight the wrong of the British army it does so without eliminating from a fair view. However, pretext is never provided such as what were the exact policies of the time that would motivate a government to send in military troops to stop a march. Some area are left as is serving as an introduction to the incident rather than a film that tells the whole story. Lacking in characterization you’re familiarity with the event depicted will remain the same without explaining it’s aftermath nor the impact it had. Now if the film provided a central character to root for it could have fallen into the trap of being one sided, but that’s not the issue that arises from that. The issue with no characterization is no background is provided from those who joined the protest. A politician is just a politician, a British troop is just a troop, and a citizen is just a citizen. Almost in line with reading actual news that skims on detail without the commercialization and agenda involved.
Paul Greengrass’s direction does the job even if his signature shaky-cam is not a well like technique. The cinematography of the film is equal to that shot on a grainy, handheld camera. With the visual of the film being documentary-like imitating real footage. It’s not an easy film to watch with continual fades to black between brief segments irritate as much as they help differentiate points of view or time passage. Although the device is designed to give the impression that objective “news” footage is used to favor realism over dramatization. Causing seasickness are the dizzying hand-held sequences where the cameraman runs for his life through fast and choppy editing. Using the long takes of the jittery hand-held camera lends credibility as does the working class grainy quality of the film stock. If it had a clean look and if the camera remained still it would have come of as a traditional dramatization as oppose to directly putting viewers in the center of the action. The viewer is always in the middle of the action with it flow of chaos being unpredictable. Editing is spot on with the minimal uses of music as gunshots and the sounds of a screaming crowd populate the films. Among the cast are Gerard McSorley, Kathy Keira Clarke, Edel Frazer, Declan Duddy, Mary Moulds, Gerard Crossan, Tim Pigott-Smith, Simon Mann, and the man who carries it James Nesbitt. The performances are high caliber making it hard press that these actors. With the cast dedicated performances the line between fiction and reality fades as their performances, especially James Nesbitt, help push that real footage quality aimed to capture.
Bloody Sunday simply explores an incident that occurred in a day and nothing before or afterwards in any great detail. It gets across a strong point without the need of characterization for any of the characters it followed. Paul Greengrass brings to the true horror of “Bloody Sunday” to light with shocking realism, but without depth to further understand the true significance of its impact for Britain, politics, and those involved. It’ll certainly make you feel, but thinking might varied with results.