Blu-ray review: “The Boxer” (1997)

Drama

Running Time: 113 minutes

Written by: Terry George and Jim Sheridan

Directed by: Jim Sheridan

Featuring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Brian Cox, Ken Stott, Gerard McSorley and Kenneth Cranham

Maggie: “I do have a mind of my own, Danny. I know very well I might be losing it, but I do have a mind of my own.”

Critical Commentary

“The Boxer” is a 1997 film directed by Jim Sheridan. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role, it tells the story of Danny Flynn, a former IRA member who is released from prison after serving a 14-year sentence. Upon his release, he seeks to rebuild his life and reconnect with his former love, Maggie, portrayed by Emily Watson, while also pursuing a career in professional boxing.

Overall, “The Boxer” is a powerful and emotionally charged drama that delves into themes of personal redemption, love, and the complex political landscape of Northern Ireland. Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a remarkable performance, fully immersing himself in the character of Danny Flynn. He brings a quiet intensity and vulnerability to the role, capturing the internal struggles and conflicts faced by his character.

The film also benefits from the skilled direction of Jim Sheridan, who brings his knack for storytelling and exploration of Irish identity to the screen. He creates a tense and gritty atmosphere that effectively portrays the turbulent backdrop of Belfast during the Troubles.

One of the film’s strengths is its portrayal of the boxing sequences. The fight scenes are well-executed and provide a visceral and compelling look into the world of professional boxing. These scenes serve as a metaphor for Danny’s journey and his desire to fight for his own freedom and dignity.

Additionally, the relationship between Danny and Maggie adds an emotional depth to the story. Emily Watson delivers a strong performance, showcasing the complexities of their love and the challenges they face in a politically divided society.

“The Boxer” is not without its flaws, however. Some viewers may find the pacing to be slow at times, and the film’s focus on Danny’s personal journey may overshadow the larger political context. Furthermore, the romantic storyline between Danny and Maggie might feel somewhat predictable and clichéd.

Despite these minor criticisms, “The Boxer” remains a compelling drama that explores the personal struggles of its characters within a politically charged setting. It offers a poignant examination of redemption, love, and the indomitable human spirit. If you appreciate character-driven stories and Daniel Day-Lewis’s exceptional performances, “The Boxer” is definitely worth a watch.

The film effectively captures the atmosphere of Belfast during the Troubles, portraying the tensions and divisions that permeated society. It offers insights into the complex dynamics of Irish politics and the impact they have on the lives of ordinary people. The depiction of the IRA and its influence on Danny’s life adds depth and a sense of authenticity to the narrative.

The cinematography in “The Boxer” is visually striking, capturing the stark contrast between the gritty, urban landscapes and the intimate moments between characters. The use of muted colors and dim lighting enhances the sombre tone of the film, reflecting the struggles faced by the characters and the turbulent times they live in.

The supporting cast, including Brian Cox and Ken Stott, deliver solid performances, adding further layers to the story. Their characters provide additional perspectives on the political and personal conflicts depicted in the film.

The film’s soundtrack, composed by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer, effectively complements the on-screen drama. The music captures the emotional resonance of the story, enhancing the intensity of pivotal moments and emphasizing the themes of love, loss, and resilience.

While “The Boxer” focuses primarily on Danny’s personal journey, it does not shy away from exploring the larger political context. It highlights the complexities and moral dilemmas faced by individuals involved in the conflict, shedding light on the deep-rooted divisions within the community. “The Boxer” is a well-crafted film that offers a captivating blend of personal drama and political backdrop. With its compelling performances, authentic portrayal of Belfast during the Troubles, and poignant exploration of themes, the movie stands as a powerful testament to the human spirit’s ability to endure and seek redemption in the face of adversity. If you enjoy character-driven stories, historical dramas, and thought-provoking narratives, “The Boxer” is a film that merits your attention.

One of the film’s strengths lies in its nuanced portrayal of the characters and their relationships. The chemistry between Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson is palpable, and their performances bring depth and authenticity to their characters’ connection. Their shared history and the challenges they face as they navigate their relationship in a divided society make for compelling viewing. “The Boxer” also succeeds in its exploration of themes such as forgiveness, reconciliation, and the power of personal transformation. Danny’s journey from a former IRA member seeking redemption to a professional boxer striving for success serves as a metaphor for his desire to transcend his past and find a new purpose in life. It’s a story that resonates on both an individual and universal level.

The film’s direction by Jim Sheridan is skilful, as he deftly balances the intimate moments between characters with the larger political backdrop. Sheridan’s ability to create tension and evoke emotion through subtle storytelling choices enhances the impact of the narrative. The pacing, though deliberate at times, allows for a deeper immersion into the characters’ inner worlds.

Furthermore, the film’s depiction of boxing as a means of personal expression and liberation is executed effectively. The training sequences and the actual fights are portrayed with authenticity, capturing the physicality and emotional stakes involved in the sport. These moments of intense physicality serve as a powerful contrast to the emotional and political struggles faced by the characters.

While “The Boxer” may not offer ground-breaking insights into the Troubles or provide a comprehensive analysis of the conflict, it succeeds in presenting a humanistic perspective and emphasizing the common threads of love, hope, and resilience that transcend political divisions. “The Boxer” is a poignant and thought-provoking film that skilfully blends personal drama, political backdrop, and the sport of boxing. With its compelling performances, evocative storytelling, and exploration of universal themes, it remains a memorable and impactful cinematic experience that continues to resonate with audiences.

One aspect of the film worth highlighting is its evocative cinematography. The visual aesthetics effectively capture the gritty and raw nature of the story. The use of close-ups and intimate framing allows the audience to intimately connect with the characters and their emotions. Additionally, the juxtaposition of the boxing ring and the war-torn streets of Belfast creates a powerful visual metaphor, symbolizing the individual’s struggle for personal freedom within a larger conflict.

The screenplay, written by Jim Sheridan and Terry George, is rich in authenticity and depth. It avoids taking sides or oversimplifying the complex political situation in Northern Ireland. Instead, it focuses on the personal journeys and moral dilemmas faced by the characters. The dialogue is engaging and thought-provoking, delving into themes of loyalty, identity, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Furthermore, the film benefits from strong supporting performances. Brian Cox delivers a compelling portrayal as Danny’s conflicted father, adding another layer of emotional complexity to the narrative. The ensemble cast, consisting of talented actors who bring depth to their respective roles, contributes to the overall strength of the film.

“The Boxer” is a film that explores the human spirit’s resilience and the transformative power of personal choices. It invites the audience to reflect on the complexities of conflict and the pursuit of reconciliation. While it may not offer easy answers, it sparks a dialogue about the possibilities of redemption and the enduring nature of hope.

It’s worth noting that some viewers may find the film’s pacing slow, particularly in the more introspective moments. Additionally, the emphasis on Danny’s personal journey might leave some wanting for more exploration of the wider social and political context. However, these elements do not diminish the overall impact of the film.

“The Boxer” is a moving and thought-provoking drama that delves into personal struggles, love, and the resilience of the human spirit. It boasts exceptional performances, captivating visuals, and a thoughtfully crafted screenplay. Whether you’re a fan of character-driven stories, historical dramas, or films that explore complex themes, “The Boxer” is a film that resonates and leaves a lasting impression.

Technical Commentary

Video

“The Boxer” comes on an MPEG-4 AVC-encoded BD-50 (disc size: 46.15 GB). Sheridan’s fourth feature appears in its original theatrical exhibition ratio of 1.85:1. 

Audio

“The Boxer” has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (3226 kbps, 24-bit) and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix (1739 kbps, 24-bit). “The Boxer” is a dialogue-heavy film so sound is focalized along the centre channels. The surround speakers pick up explosions and other f/x with aplomb. Co-composers Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer deliver a very good score, which was their first together. 

Special Features

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary with director Jim Sheridan
  • Audio Commentary with producer Arthur Lappin
  • Director Jim Sheridan on The Boxer – interview featurette
  • Archival interview with actress Emily Watson (1997)
  • Fighting for Peace: Inside The Boxer – featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer
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