Director: Jim Sheridan
Writer:Terry George and Jim Sheridan
Cinematographer: Chris Menges
Producer: Arthur Lappin and Jim Sheridan
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
In accord with the rest of the film, the idealism of bringing together feuding communities around sport is never directly discussed, and yet we understand its power. Of course there are radicals in sports - my experience with Giants and Dodgers fans has often demonstrated such. For the most part it’s an apolitical experience that brings people together. I’m a general baseball fan, enjoying the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and the White Sox (to say this is blasphemy in some of my home circles). I can just as easily enjoy a good game between two teams I don’t even follow much. Just today I was watching the record shutout between the Astros dominating the Mariners 22-1. What I enjoy about the game is that there are no politics. For a slow game which requires constant talking and discussion from the broadcasters, politics is never mentioned. It simply unifies people who can share a fun experience.
We’re never sure if Danny had some grand mission to unify the two countries. I suppose it’s possible given his IRA roots and the violence he now detests. It’s the irony in that he boxes that provides the perfect motivation for the cause. He uses respectable violence to combat needless violence, all in the hope that it could bond divisions. Then again, it could be that after fourteen years in prison, he possesses a rage against himself, his friends, and the cause that makes him want to express himself; fighting his former enemies, sacrificing their safety for a grander cause. Or maybe it just makes him feel good. Daniel Day Lewis never let’s the character feel self-righteous. It is a person acting as they must act; doing what they must do to achieve the life he and maybe even others want.
During the riot, Maggie’s son Liam (Ciarán Fitzgerald) and a couple other boys set the gym on fire after Liam saw how Maggie acted around Danny; jealous that she was going to leave his imprisoned father. Liam tells Harry it was Danny, leading Harry to demand his head; refusing to accept peace from Joe unless Danny’s turned over. Maggie begs Joe not to do it, creating a magnificent irony; as she’s torn between peace for all and Danny’s assassination.
She tells Danny who decides to leave, crossing over into England where he participates in one of the most unique boxing scenes I’ve ever watched. Rather than the roaring crowds and ring girls, it’s set within an upper class ballroom, where the British elite eat dinner in their suits and gowns, hardly making a sound as the men box for them.
Another fight is scheduled for a television broadcast. Danny is matched against what seems to be an African immigrant, who while initially giving Danny a run for his money, then falters when Danny gains the upper hand; taking the man down again and again in absolutely brutal fashion as the man refuses - or has been ordered - not to give up; forcing Danny to beat him to the point of near death until Danny finally calls it quits; returning the Championship to Britain and enraging his Irish brethren.
The lack of yelling and cutaways to people screaming creates a nauseating experience. All we hear are the punches landing, at times cracking bones, cutting to the aristocrats eating and drinking champagne, all while the fighters get increasingly bloody. Alongside Raging Bull, it’s one of the most brutal fight sequences I’ve ever seen.
It pushes Harry over the edge who demands that Danny be executed for both the bombs and embarrassing their movement after he returns home in defeat. Knowing his fate and in a brilliant sequence, Maggie helps Danny escape across the border. Sheridan keeps cutting back to the British helicopter soaring above, serving as the unacting authority; the eye of God. As they near the border, Harry and his crew trap them in, taking Danny away. Maggie chases them down, looking up the helicopter, hoping it could intervene, knowing that amidst their civil battles, it’ll do nothing but watch. By this point, given how grim the story was, I was certain that Danny would be killed, but in a thrilling reversal, Harry’s crew intervenes, leaving Danny alive, demanding he get out of town.
I struggle to think of another film that so heavily transformed from its modest beginning and into a profound and complex remaining story. Part boxing movie/part political thriller/part romance - it is the type of big film about ideas that we hardly see anymore; often reserved for small indies, or removing the politics in favor of extending to as many people as possible. More surprising is how little I’ve heard of this movie, even amongst the most passionate Daniel Day Lewis fans. It’s the type of film that demonstrates his growth. Rather than the larger than life characters we’re familiar with, we witness a humble and conflicted working class hero, seemingly muted, and then exploding into the range that we know from this generation’s greatest actor.
BELOW: DDL does boxing
Like what you read? Support the site on Patreon
Please report any spelling, grammar, or factual errors or corrections on the contact page
© Jonathan Cvack and Yellow Barrel, 2015 - 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cvack and Yellow Barrel with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.