Clearly a labor of love, Irish writer-director Neil Jordan's biography of Michael Collins is an admirable tribute to his country's beloved patriot that sometimes verges on hagiography. Beginning with the brutally suppressed Easter Uprising of 1916, Jordan's film chronicles
Collins' (Liam Neeson) struggle for an independent Irish republic, from the organization of his fellow guerrilla warriors to his negotiation of the controversial treaty that would plunge his country into civil war and lead to his own assassination. History can be messy, particularly when it's the
history of a man to whom, it can (and will) be argued, the words terrorist and freedom fighter are equally applicable. Jordan cannily sidesteps the troubling issue by presenting Collins as the hero of what amounts to a briskly paced, beautifully executed espionage thriller --
complete with daring escapes, exploding cars and a beautiful woman (Julia Roberts). And while the film is unflinching in its depiction of the brutality of both the English and the Irish, Jordan pointedly dissociates his hero from any actual ugliness. He may have been the architect, but Collins is
never shown with blood on his hands.
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