Blu-ray review: “Bloody Sunday” (2002)

“Bloody Sunday” (2002)

Drama

Running Time: 111 minutes

Written & directed by: Paul Greengrass based on Eyewitness Bloody Sunday by Don Mullan

Featuring: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell, Gerard McSorley and Kathy Kiera Clarke

Ivan Cooper: “I just want to say this to the British Government… You know what you’ve just done, don’t you? You’ve destroyed the civil rights movement, and you’ve given the IRA the biggest victory it will ever have. All over this city tonight, young men… boys will be joining the IRA, and you will reap a whirlwind.”

Critical Commentary

Released recently on Blu-ray on the Imprint label is the Political/Social drama “Bloody Sunday” (2002) which takes the real events of the 1972 civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland and shows the events through the eyes of one man. This is a technique that director Paul Greengrass has been using in many of his films in one way or another which is an interesting technique especially in the non-fiction area of his career as it gives a definite point of view, something many filmmakers do not have the courage to do, and is refreshing especially as time has moved on from the event as well as when the film was produced.

“Bloody Sunday”, the films, shows the events of the day through the eyes of Ivan Cooper, an SDLP Member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland who was a central organiser of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Derry on 30 January 1972. The march ended when British Army paratroopers fired on the demonstrators, killing thirteen and wounding another who died four and a half months later. In addition to the deaths, fourteen other people were wounded.

The film is written and directed by Paul Greengrass, who up to this time had been a notable director of episodic television as well as made for television movies. “Bloody Sunday” as a film became Greengrass’s calling card to a career in Hollywood, he would use the style he illustrated here with his fly on the wall, cinéma vérité style to bring a feeling of authenticity to his films especially those based on real people and events. Not only that but Greengrass would not shy away from the big budget action movies to make sure his name carried weight with the harder to make films he is still tackling. 

Interestingly the narrative of the film is just as important as the plot, which could arguably be said of all of Greengrass’s non-fiction work. The film covers about 24 hours, starting on Saturday evening, and its central character is Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt), a civil rights leader in Derry. He was a Protestant MP from the nationalist Social Democratic Labour Party. Most of the 10,000 marchers on that Sunday would be Catholic; that a Protestant led them, and stood beside such firebrands as Bernadette Devlin, indicates the division in the north between those who stood in solidarity with their co-religionists, and those of all faiths who simply wanted the British out of Northern Ireland.

The main role of Cooper is played by James Nesbitt as a thoroughly admirable man, optimistic, tireless, who walks fearlessly through dangerous streets and has a good word for everyone. Much like Greengrass, Nesbitt is on show here and his performance is as good a calling card as could be seen. Nesbitt up to this point had been a familiar place on television screens so had a wide range of experience and I can’t help but think he was offered a lot of roles because of this singular performance. 

Much like many of Paul Greengrass’s films they are told out of time so that they stay relevant because many of the themes he analyses are timeless. That is the case with “Bloody Sunday” which is not only a great film but is easily rewatchable. The directors skill can be seen in other true stories most poignantly in “United 93” (2006) which proved that there are no limits when a subject is approached seriously and with respect. Of course in terms of this film we are seeing one side of story, there are good and bad sides which make it easier to apportion blame when a miscarriage of justice can be assumed by all.

Technical Commentary

Video

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, “Bloody Sunday” arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Via Vision Entertainment. This release is obviously sourced from an older master, but the film is shot in a way that pretty much invalidates the usual standards we apply to judge the quality of a presentation. Indeed, the film’s pseudo-documentary appearance manipulates delineation, clarity, depth, shadow nuances, highlights, and even colour balance, so it is very difficult to guess what the ideal appearance of the film in 1080p should be like. Image stability is good, but the shaky camera produces plenty of material that is again incredibly difficult to judge. 

Audio

There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 used for the UK theatrical version of the film and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 used for the U.S. theatrical version of the film. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided for the main feature. 

Special Features

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-Ray
  • Audio commentary by writer/director Paul Greengrass and actor James Nesbitt
  • Audio commentary by co-producer Don Mullan
  • Bloody Sunday: Ivan Cooper Remembers – featurette 
  • Bloody Sunday: History Retold – featurette 
  • Forces are Here – featurette 
  • Shooting Bloody Sunday – featurette 
  • Paul Greengrass: Not so British – featurette 
  • Q&A with director Paul Greengrass
  • Cast & Crew interviews
  • Encounter Between Jimmy & Ivan – featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

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