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Movie Review

Michael Collins

MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.

Reviewed by: Ken James

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Biography War Thriller Drama
2 hr. 13 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 11, 1996
Copyright, Geffen Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Geffen Pictures Copyright, Geffen Pictures Copyright, Geffen Pictures
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Copyright, Geffen Pictures

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Learn about the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and other important topics in Ireland?—commentary

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Featuring: Liam Neeson (Michael Collins), Julia Roberts (Kitty Kiernan), Alan Rickman (Eamon de Valera), Brendan Gleeson (Liam Tobin), Aidan Quinn (Harry Boland), Stephen Rea (Ned Broy), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Collins' Assassin), more »
Director: Neil Jordan
Producer: Warner Bros. Pictures, Geffen Pictures, Redmond Morris, Stephen Woolley
Distributor: Geffen Pictures

“Ireland, 1916. His dreams inspired hope. His words inspired passion. His courage forged a nation’s destiny.”

If historical dramas are up your alley, you won’t want to miss “Michael Collins”. Reminiscent of “In the Name of the Father” and, more recently, “Braveheart”, “Michael Collins” (played by Liam Neeson of “Schindler’s List”) tells the story of a young man leading Ireland in their fight for independence from the British. Obviously influenced by his background, Irish-born director Neil Jordan sheds light on the bitter and brutal battles fought during the 1920’s in Dublin, Ireland.

“Mick” Collins, Eamon DeValera (Alan Rickman), and Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn), lead a ring of Irish freedom fighters. They take upon themselves the incredible task of ousting British occupation from Ireland. Having ignored warnings given by the IRA to evacuate Dublin, many British officials assigned there are assassinated in cold blood. England dispatches more troops to occupy Dublin, leading to building animosity between the Brits and Irish.

Eventually, against incredible odds, Ireland is given a form of independence they had been desiring for centuries. However, the treaty, lacking many provisions greatly desired, does not satisfy all the Irishmen, quickly leading to a fierce and bloody civil war between the Irish.

The historical aspect of this story is fascinating. It offers a more clear understanding about the IRA and British and Irish relations, however biased the story, that most Americans are ignorant of. While much of the movie is enjoyable and interesting, it certainly doesn’t help current relations between the opposing sides. (You can be sure the British parliament won’t be endorsing this one!) Julia Roberts, who plays the part of a young lady loved by best friends and co-fighters Michael Collins and Harry Boland, is truly a downfall to the movie. Her Americanized persona and totally unconvincing accent brought down several of the scenes she was cast in.

With much bloodshed, violence, profanity, and adult themes (nothing sexual), this movie is not for everyone, especially not kids and younger teens. It does, however, lead to a much better understanding of Ireland’s continuing fight for independence and the struggles they have faced in the past.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
In general you did the film justice, as historical dramas go. It was exciting and, from my Irish perspective, obviously quite interesting. For totally different reasons, the film has created controversies here about historical accuracy, events left out, etc. By the way, I didn’t think Julia Roberts was so bad!…

Interestingly, you mention about profanity. It is generally felt that little bad language would have been used at that time, definitely not as much as was portrayed in the film. Indeed, Collins himself was a religious man—during the treaty negotiations he went to mass every morning to pray for guidance. It’s probable that he never actually slept with a woman and certainly wasn’t promiscuous, even if he related well to the opposite sex. The Catholic church at the time was completely against armed violence and many of the IRA volunteers were under threat of excommunication if they participated in a murder.
—Peter O'Grady, N. Ireland