Michael Collins is a movie based on the life of the Irish rebel and leader who rose to prominence after the 1916 Rising. He is portrayed by the actor Liam Neeson and the film shows Michael’s action in the years following the failed Rising, such as the formation of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the signing of the treaty that eventually gave Ireland it’s freedom, though not what was originally desired by the Republican party.
The movie starts off with the 1916 Rising at its breaking point, as the rebels are surrendering to the British military and the leaders are taken away to be executed. Throughout the course of the movie we’re treated to a upstanding performance of Eamon Devalara, played by the late Alan Rickman.
After the leaders of the Rising are killed the movie skips forward to when Michael, and the other fighters who were arrested after the Rising, have been freed. Michael immediately goes back to stirring up trouble for the British Government, and using his ability to inspire the common people he uses unconventional weaponry to capture essential supplies for the start of his army. Throughout the course of the movie we see how the Irish people fought the British Empire in a completely new way to what they were used to, using guerilla warfare they strategically attacked and crippled their military presence and grip on Ireland to the point where they send in a new force, the Black and Tans, who were mostly comprised of criminals. This however worked against the British even more until eventually they call a ceasefire and are willing to negotiate a treaty.
The treaty that is agreed upon however results in Ireland forfeiting the North, this leads to a division between Michael and the Republics loyalists against Eamon De Valera’s anti-treaty supporters. In the ensuing Civil War many Irish people are killed and it comes to a dramatic end when Michael is killed by an ambush in his home county of Cork, where he was hoping to bring things to a peaceful resolution with De Valera.
The movie is an interesting watch because it isn’t a simple firefight or good and evil plot. Both sides are shown performing horrific acts, the Irish rebels are depicted as especially brutal, killing spies and officials who were causing problems for them. Eamon is shown to be highly opposed to these underhanded yet highly efficient strategies, which leads to a major rift between him and Michael, who is willing to fight, not for a blood sacrifice such as the 1916 Rising, but for victory.
Liam Neeson does an outstanding job portraying the conflict within Michael as he is forced to turn on his fellow Irish men, showing the pain and conflicted feelings perfectly.
Eamon De Valera is wonderfully brought to life by Alan Rickman, his particularly unique voice making De Valera’s speeches seem all the more impactful, displaying him as a charismatic leader.
Julia Roberts adds an interesting twist to the film. Showing off Collin’s more human side, allowing us to see how difficult his choices are.
The cast is made up of many other notable names, all who bring their A-Game to the film, such as Stephen Rea as Ned Broy, Charles Dance as Soames and many more.