In this follow up to Hope and Glory, Bill Rohan (Callum Turner) is conscripted into the Army at the age of 18. While serving his mandatory two years, he makes friends and starts romances that change the course of his life.
Hope and Glory, Boorman’s 1987 film, was nominated for an Academy Award, and praised for its examination of London during the Blitz. Queen and Country proves to be a lot less hard hitting and, while trying to shine a light on the generation seemingly rudderless and lost between the end of World War II and the beginning of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, manages to say very little at all.
Callum Turner does well enough in the lead role as Bill Rohan – Boorman’s cinematic alter ago – but since he is the average kid dragged into the army, there is little about him that stands out. Caleb Landry Jones, as Bill’s friend Percy, is so over the top it is not hard to wonder whether he was drunk for the entire time of shooting. Jones does nothing to try and fit into the film or the era, instead seemingly mugging for the camera and standing out for all the wrong reasons. Richard E. Grant brings the shouty as Major Cross, David Thewlis’s character Bradley attempts to show the after effects of war, and Pat Shortt tries to bring some humour as Redmond and almost always succeeds. The rest of the cast is made up of Sinead Cusack, Tamsin Edgerton and Vanessa Kirby.
Boorman, as writer, is obviously trying to capture the feeling of a world relaxed after the end of World War II, but never truly manages to do so, instead making characters weak, annoying or seemingly lacking motivation. There are several characters whose actions are almost inexplicable, and others who are painted so thin and created to be so weak that they are painful to watch on screen.
As director, Boorman never truly makes Queen and Country connect either as a whole or with the audience, these seem to be the problems of the upper class – and they are hardly life threatening issues – shown as vignette, rather than a coherent and cohesive story. The look and feel of the film are strong, but the audience is ultimately left searching for a point to the whole thing.
In all, Queen and Country tries to examine the ignored generation landed between the end of World War II and he beginning of the 1960s, but only succeeds in making the characters bland or unlikeable, and the film feel incoherent and ultimately, pointless.