Black Sunday: Greengrass’ Account of 1972 Irish Clash

Director Paul Greengrass is best known for the Bourne movies, starring Matt Damon. But he had first made a strong impression on American audiences with the political thriller Bloody Sunday, an impassioned chronicle of the 1972 violent outbreak during an I.R.A. civil-rights march in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

World-premiering at the New York Film Fest, Bloody Sunday was released theatrically a week after its first showing.

Greengrass presents the events leading to the horribly bloody clash in a tense, impassioned and convincing manner, trying to present the two sides of the conflict by individualizing it.

The rigid Major General Robert Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith) of the British Army believes that he is doing his duty, when he proclaims: “’In view of the adverse security situation, all parades, processions and marches will be banned until further notice.”

He is contrasted with Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt), a member of Parliament representing an Irish-Catholic district in Londonderry, holds that “If we don’t march, civil rights is dead in this city,” based on his strong view that the British government has not fulfilled its promise of reform.

It’s the details that count in this report, which unfold in visually and emotionally arresting sequences of blackouts, and fast-paced scenes that emphasize the urgency as well as the dangers and risks involved.

Greengrass is obviously on the side of the Irish-Catholic demonstrators who turned out to make a statement about the discriminatory policies of the Protestant-dominated Ulster Government.

The romantic story between Gerry Donaghy (Declan Duddy), a teenager who has previously been arrested for rioting previously, and a Protestant girl, is less compelling.

To Greengrass’ credit, the aptly titled movie does not make the mistake of simplifying the issues and wearing its politics and emotions on its sleeves.