December 26, 2021
Bloody Sunday (2002)
Grade: 73/100

Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Allan Gildea

What it's about. A dramatization of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre in Derry, Northern Ireland. Catholic community Bogside is subjugated by the Protestant majority, backed by British soldiers. Parliament member Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt) plans a peaceful march to a local landmark. The unauthorized march is unlawful, and provides a pretext for a British Army unit led by Major General Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith) to mass arrest troublemaking Derry youths. But the British soldiers panic, and end up indiscriminating firing into the Derry crowd, killing more than a dozen people.

Both sides are depicted. Cooper is a moderate compared to other protest organizers, especially Bernadette (Mary Moulds). Some of the British soldiers are ambivalent about their duty. Brigadier Maclellan (Nicholas Farrell) seems none too happy, even without Gerald McSorley as the voice of conscience suggesting that the whole operation be called off.

One of the youths, Gerry (Declan Duddy), gets more camera time than others, which makes it inevitable that he will be one of the youths mowed down.

How others will see it. Bloody Sunday was well received. It was nominated for five BAFTA awards, winning one. The most prestigious nomination was for Best Actor (James Nesbitt). Greengrass' success was such that his next movie was The Bourne Supremacy.

Today at, the user review total is only 24K (The Bourne Supremacy has 450K user votes) but the user rating of 7.6 (out of 10) is very high. Injustice is a reliable cinema topic, especially when lives are needlessly lost.

The user reviews have a salting of comments from those who believe that the film is too pro-Irish. It doesn't help the neutrality that pro-Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan is one of the executive producers. In the context of The Troubles, one can find plenty of fault on both sides. But on Bloody Sunday, one has to blame the Brits, since all the dead and wounded were Catholic.

Of course, not all are fans of Greengrass' shaky camera. I suppose that if you saw this movie in a theater, you could get motion sickness.

How I felt about it. Aside from the romance between Ivan Cooper and Frances (Kathy Kiera Clarke), this film has a documentary feel, accentuated by a very shaky hand-held camera. Too shaky, in fact. The cinematographer did not previously work on The Blair Witch Project, despite first impressions.

But the movie seems very authentic. Sometimes, when a movie is very good, you don't know whether to credit the director or the screenwriter. But in this case, both are Paul Greengrass, so we have him to thank. As well as the local casting, which ensures that the accents are right. The suspense is palpable. We even wonder whether Ivan Cooper will get shot.

As for the massacre, blame primarily falls on Major General Ford, who insisted prior to the march that a dozen-plus young Derry men were to be arrested, taking advantage of the unauthorized march. "Soldier F" is also to blame, but one can argue he was inadequately trained, and should not have had live ammunition. Some blame also falls upon the stone-throwing Derry youths. No blame falls upon Ivan Cooper, who intended a non-violent protest.