Michael Collins (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Neil Jordan|
|Produced by||Stephen Woolley|
|Written by||Neil Jordan|
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Edited by||J. Patrick Duffner
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
Michael Collins is a 1996 historical biopic written and directed by Neil Jordan and starring Liam Neeson as Michael Collins, the Irish patriot and revolutionary who died in the Irish Civil War. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
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The film flashes back to the end of the Easter Rising in 1916, as Collins (Liam Neeson), Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn), Éamon de Valera (Alan Rickman), and other survivors surrender to the British Army. As the Dublin Metropolitan Police's "G" Division identifies the leaders, Collins tells Boland that next time, "We won't play by their rules, Harry. We'll invent our own." All the other leaders die by firing squad, but de Valera, an American citizen, is imprisoned in England. Collins, Boland, and the others are sent to Frongoch internment camp.
After his release, Collins gives a speech at an election rally at the South Longford by-election, 1917. Collins is injured when the Royal Irish Constabulary break up the rally, but is rescued by Boland. While recovering on a friend's farm, they meet Kitty, who begins a romance with Boland.
Collins is tipped off by Detective Ned Broy (Rea) that the British plan to arrest de Valera and his Cabinet. However, de Valera forbids anyone to go into hiding, stating that the ensuing public outcry will force their immediate release. Only Collins and Boland escape arrest and imprisonment, and there are no protests.
Later, Boland and Collins travel to England and break de Valera out of Lincoln prison. Angry that Collins has overshadowed him, de Valera announces that he will travel to the United States to seek recognition from Woodrow Wilson, and orders Boland to accompany him. Before they depart, Collins suggests to Boland his belief that de Valera fears leaving them alone together.
Left in command, Collins orders the IRA to begin raiding police barracks for weapons. He also issues a statement that all collaboration with the British will be punished by death. Collins then recruits a squad from the IRA's Dublin Brigade, which, on Bloody Sunday, assassinates fourteen members of MI5's Cairo Gang. In retaliation, the Black and Tans fire into the crowd at a Gaelic football match at Croke Park. Broy is caught burning documents, tortured and killed.
After returning from America empty-handed, de Valera decrees that the IRA must make a formal military attack on The Custom House. Collins argues that fighting conventionally will allow the British to win, but the Cabinet votes to support de Valera. The attack fails catastrophically, leaving six men dead and seventy captured. In the aftermath, Collins declares that the IRA can only hold out for a month. In private, he tells Boland that the IRA will be lucky to hold out for another week. To his surprise, however, the British soon call for a cease fire.
De Valera orders Collins to go to London to participate in negotiations with the British, despite Collins's objections that he is not a diplomat. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, de Valera erupts upon learning that the terms have been published without his agreement. Collins argues that the Treaty gives them the freedom to achieve the Republic, albeit at the expense of six of the nine Ulster counties.
De Valera and his supporters resign in protest after the Dáil approves the Treaty by 64–57. Both Collins and de Valera try to sway the Irish people in their respective directions. Collins is attacked by an anti-Treaty Republican during a rally, but escapes. In the aftermath, he successfully proposes to Kitty.
When the people vote to approve the Treaty, de Valera refuses to accept the results and orders the IRA to seize the Four Courts in Dublin. Ordered by the Cabinet to retake the Four Courts, Collins (now Chief of Staff of the National Army) is appalled at having to fight former comrades. The Taoiseach, Arthur Griffith, informs him that, if the Irish Free State Army will not deal with the IRA, the British Army will. In the subsequent Battle of Dublin, the IRA is driven from the city. Despite Collins' attempts to capture him, Boland is shot by a sentry while trying to swim the Liffey.
Devastated by Boland's death, Collins travels to County Cork. He reaches out to de Valera through an intermediary, asking for a peace conference. Without de Valera's knowledge, the intermediary informs Collins that de Valera will meet him at Béal na Bláth the following day. As a convoy of Irish Army vehicles approaches they find a cart laid across the road and IRA men open fire from a nearby hillside. A short ambush starts and Collins is shot and killed after breaking cover from behind an armoured car. Joe O'Reilly tries to revive Collins but he dies and his attacker unknown. Kitty is informed of his death just after trying on her wedding gown.
Completing his story, O'Reilly tells Kitty that Collins would not want her to mourn as long as she has.
The film ends with a montage of footage from Collins' funeral. A eulogy states that, although a career soldier, Collins died in a failed effort to remove the gun from Irish politics.
- Liam Neeson as Michael Collins
- Aidan Quinn as Harry Boland
- Stephen Rea as Ned Broy
- Alan Rickman as Éamon de Valera
- Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan
- Ian Hart as Joe O'Reilly
- Brendan Gleeson as Liam Tobin
- Seán McGinley as Smith
- Gerard McSorley as Cathal Brugha
- Owen O'Neill as Rory O'Connor
- Charles Dance as Soames, the British MI5 officer who commands the Cairo Gang
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Collins's Assassin
- Ian McElhinney as Belfast Detective
- Stuart Graham as Tom Cullen
Michael Cimino wrote a script and was involved in pre-production work on a possible Collins film for over a year in the early 1990s with Gabriel Byrne attached to star. Cimino was fired over budget concerns. Neil Jordan mentions in his film diary that Kevin Costner had also been interested in developing a movie about Collins and had visited Béal na Bláth and the surrounding areas.
The film was scripted and directed by Neil Jordan. The soundtrack was written by Elliot Goldenthal. The film was an international co-production between companies in Ireland and the United States. With a budget estimated at $25 million, with 10%-12% from the Irish Film Board, it was one of the most expensive films ever produced in Ireland. While filming, the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire caused the film's release to be delayed from June to December which caused Warner Bros. executive Rob Friedman to pressure the director to reshoot the ending to focus on the love story between Collins and Kiernan, in an attempt to downplay the breakdown of Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
A number of Irish actors auditioned for the part of de Valera but Jordan felt they weren't able to find a real character and were playing a stereotype of de Valera. Jordan met with John Turturro about the role before casting Alan Rickman. Jordan initially envisioned Stephen Rea playing Harry Boland, but then decided the role of Broy would give Rea more of a challenge. Matt Dillon and Adam Baldwin also auditioned for the role. Aengus O'Malley a great grandnephew of Michael Collins played the role of a student filmed in Marsh's Library.
Although based on historical events, the film does contain some alterations and fictionalizations, such as the death of Harry Boland. Neil Jordan defended his film by saying that it could not provide an entirely accurate account of events, given that it was a two-hour film that had to be understandable to an international audience who would not know the minutiae of Irish history. The documentary on the DVD release of the film also discusses its fictional aspects.
Ned Broy was not tortured and killed as depicted in the film. In reality, he became Commissioner of the Garda Síochána between 1933 and 1938. He died in 1972.
Critic Roger Ebert referred to the closing quotation from de Valera that history would vindicate Collins at his own expense, writing that "even Dev could hardly have imagined this film biography of Collins, which portrays De Valera as a weak, mannered, sniveling prima donna whose grandstanding led to decades of unnecessary bloodshed in, and over, Ireland."
During the Easter Rising scenes, the Volunteers and Citizen Army are shown marching out of the General Post Office to surrender. However, the day before the surrender, they had retreated from the burning GPO to another building down the road, and surrendered from there. The white flag of surrender was actually displayed at 16 Moore Street, in another part of Dublin, where the leadership was holed-up.
During the Easter Rising scenes, Collins is shown wearing the uniform of a full Lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers. While there is a photo of him in his Volunteers uniform as a Lieutenant, by the Easter Rising he had been promoted to Captain, where he served as aide de camp to Joseph Plunkett, who is conspicuously absent.
Éamon de Valera is shown surrendering with the General Post Office garrison after the Easter Rising. However, he was actually Commandant of the garrison at Boland's Mills, which surrendered after the GPO upon receiving orders to stand down. He was never at the GPO during the Rising.
Thomas MacDonagh surrendered at Jacob's Factory; he wasn't present with GPO leaders Pearse, Clarke or Connolly when they surrendered at 16 Moore Street.
In the opening GPO scene, a woman resembling Constance Markievicz can be seen coming out with the rest of the Citizen Army to surrender. Constance Markievicz was never at the GPO during the rising, she fought at St Stephens Green/Royal College of Surgeons and surrendered there.
In the scene with Collins and Boland on a train on the way to the election rally, it says May 1918. At the election rally, we can see the famous "Put him in to get him out" election posters from the 10 May 1917 by-election in South Longford where Joseph McGuinness was the SF candidate. The road sign says Longford, there were no by-elections in May 1918, and McGuinness was the only prisoner candidate in the 1917-18 by-elections. So it is clear that it should be May 1917 and not May 1918.
A Dublin detective by the name of "Hoey" is depicted being shot in an open marketplace in broad daylight. According to the historian Michael Foy while there was a detective with the last name "Hoey" he was shot at his home at night.
In the Croke Park scene an armoured car opens fire on the crowd. In reality an armoured car was never used at Croke Park. In actual fact, it was members of the Auxiliary Division and the Royal Irish Constabulary who opened fire.
There is a character by the name of Tom Cullen who is depicted as being murdered by the Black and Tan during the assault on the Customs House. According to the book "Michael Collins: Intelligence War" by Michael Foy, there was a man by the name of Tom Cullen who was mentioned as being very much alive by the start of the civil war and fighting for the Free State.
Harry Boland was in America when Collins returned to Ireland with the treaty, not in Dublin as shown in the movie.
The anti-treaty forces are depicted seizing control of the Four Courts in June 1922 and that De Valera was the one who gave the order. In reality they seized control in April of 1922 and Liam Lynch as chief of staff of the volunteer executive was the one who gave the order.
Boland did not die in the manner suggested by the film. He was shot in a skirmish with Irish Free State soldiers in The Grand Hotel, Skerries, North Co. Dublin during the Battle of Dublin. The hotel has since been demolished but a plaque was put where the building used to be. His last words in the film - "Have they got Mick Collins yet?" - are however, based on a well-known tradition.
Joe O'Reilly was not with Michael in Beal na mBlath on 22 August 1922.
In one of the final scenes of the film Collins remarked that De Valera was his chief and that he would have followed him to hell if he had to. While Collins did indeed make that comment he was actually referring to Easter Rising leader James Connolly when comparing him to Patrick Pearse.
The Irish Film Censor initially intended to give the film an over-15 Certificate, but later decided that it should be released with a PG certificate because of its historical importance. The censor issued a press statement defending his decision, claiming the film was a landmark in Irish cinema and that "because of the subject matter, parents should have the option of making their own decision as to whether their children should see the film or not". The video release was, however, given a 12 certificate.
The film currently has a score of 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film became the highest grossing film ever in Ireland upon its release, making IR£ 4 million. In 2000, it was second only to Titanic in this category. It received generally positive reviews, but was mildly criticized for some historical inaccuracies.
- Academy Awards - Nominated Best Cinematography (Chris Menges)
- Academy Awards - Nominated Best Original Dramatic Score (Elliot Goldenthal)
- Evening Standard British Film Awards - Winner Best Actor (Liam Neeson)
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Winner Best Cinematography (Chris Menges; tied with John Seale for The English Patient)
- Venice Film Festival - Winner Golden Lion (Neil Jordan), Winner Best Actor (Liam Neeson)
- The Irish Filmography 1896–1996; Red Mountain Press; 1996. p. 80 ISBN 0-9526698-0-3
- "The awards of the Venice Film Festival". Labiennale.org. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- Neil Jordan, Michael Collins, Plume Press, 1996 ISBN 0-452-27686-1
- "Between Irish National Cinema and Hollywood: Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- Goldstone, Patricia. Making the world safe for tourism, Yale University Press, 2001. p. 139 ISBN 0-300-08763-2
- "Michael Collins", The South Bank Show, 27 October 1996.
- Ebert's review, published on 25 October 1996
- Fitzpatrick, David. Harry Boland's Irish Revolution, Cork University Press. p. 8. ISBN 1-85918-222-4
- Flynn, Roderick and Patrick Brereton. "Michael Collins", Historical Dictionary of Irish Cinema, Scarecrow Press, 2007. Page 252. ISBN 978-0-8108-5557-1
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