Film review: Queen and Country

Queen and Country. Picture: Sophie Mutevelian

Queen and Country. Picture: Sophie Mutevelian - Credit: Archant

This sequel to Hope and Glory 28 years on feels a bit desperate, says Michael Joyce.

There ought to be some statute of limitations on how much time can elapse between sequels. While it is perfectly acceptable to reboot Mad Max three decades on, the idea that John Boorman can spring a sequel to Hope and Glory on us 28 years later reeks of desperation. Having covered his childhood dodging bombs in London during the Blitz in the earlier film, here we get to relive his two years of National Service during the ‘50s against the backdrop of the Korean War and the coronation.

Hope and Glory was to Boorman’s career what Empire of the Sun was to J.G. Ballard’s: not only because it brought mainstream acceptance to a talent that had previously been something of a maverick, but also in the way it described the horror and deprivation of war through the eyes of a child for whom it was mostly a game.

Young men going into the army and running up against its rigid discipline doesn’t have the same novelty. Most of the story is a battle of wills between two lads - Bill (Turner), the Boorman surrogate, Percy (Landry) - and their officious, by-the-book Sergeant Major Bradley (Thewlis.) It is fundamentally a light-hearted tale, but with a sense of darker realities lurking in the background. Though the two lads avoid it, most of the conscripts are being trained up prior to deployment in Korea. It’s like a more earnest version of Carry On Sergeant with more social context but no double takes, though the perpetually red-faced Percy always seems to be on the verge of an outbreak of Kenneth Connor/ Jack Douglas-style nervous tics.