'Barley' Explores Angst of IRA's Early Days Ken Loach's film The Wind That Shakes the Barley examines the early days of the Irish Republican Army and the radical organization's impact on the Irish people. Some British papers have criticized Loach for making the movie.
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'Barley' Explores Angst of IRA's Early Days

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'Barley' Explores Angst of IRA's Early Days

Review

Arts & Life

'Barley' Explores Angst of IRA's Early Days

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If people talk about movies at those parties, they might just argue over "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." As he does every Friday, Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Ken Turan has a review.

KENNETH TURAN: For Director Ken Loach, the personal is always political; the political, personal. Loach is the dean of British independent filmmakers and he has the gift of finding private emotions in public dilemmas. That's just what he does with his fine new film "The Wind That Shakes the Barley."

"Barley" is set during the Irish independence movement of the early 1920s. That era is still so controversial that some British newspapers savagely attacked Loach for making this film. It stars Cillian Murphy as a young man who forsakes a medical career to join the Irish Republican Army.

(Soundbite of film, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley")

Mr. CILLIAN MURPHY (Actor): (As Damien) (Unintelligible) 73 seats our request for 105. Our mandate is for an Irish Republic completely separate from Great Britain, a democratic state.

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character) Listen, that is not my responsibility. I'm just a soldier sent by my government.

Mr. MURPHY: (As Damien) Your government which suppresses our parliament, which binds our (unintelligible). Your presence here is a crime.

TURAN: In fact, the controversial scenes - which show the British Army resorting to torture - are the least-interesting aspects of this work. For 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' turns out to be a complicated, dramatically potent story. It's concerned not with how bad the British were, but with what the wrenching personal cost of fighting fire with fire was for the Irish.

(Soundbite of film "The Wind That Shakes the Barley")

Mr. MURPHY: (As Damien) Here's what we do. We send a message to the British Cabinet that will echo and reverberate around the world. If they bring their savagery over here, we will meet it with a savagery of our own.

TURAN: Cillian Murphy is especially good at playing personal zealotry, as well as soul-searching and regret. He shows us a man who is eaten up alive because he's forced to act in ways that are contrary to his background and his training. When he says, at one particularly painful point, I hope this Ireland we're fighting for is worth it, it's an especially moving moment.

When the Irish have to decide whether to accept partial independence or continue fighting, the film tips its hand neither one way nor the other. Both sides have strongly thought out points of view, and hearing them expressed is thrilling. If you were alive at that time it must have been an agonizing choice, director Loach said at Cannes. There were no good people or bad people, all responses to the situation have a logic - that's the terrible dilemma - and the source of wonderful drama as well.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and The Los Angeles Times.

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