• PG-13, 2 hr. 6 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Ken Loach
    In Theaters:
    Mar 16, 2007 Wide
    On DVD:
    Sep 4, 2007
  • IFC First Take

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The Wind That Shakes the Barley Reviews

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garyX
garyX

Super Reviewer

May 28, 2007
A pair of working class Irish brothers are caught up in the troubles during the social upheaval caused by the fight for independence in 1920. Set during the same period as Neil Jordan's Michael Collins, The Wind That Shakes The Barley is a far more personal representation of the events depicted; while Jordan concentrated on the political movers and shakers of the period, Loach is far more concerned with the ordinary soldiers on the ground and the divisions that were created by the treaty of 1920. Although it centres around the ordinary working class folk of Ireland, I couldn't help the feeling that we didn't really get to know any of them on a personal level leaving little room for emotional attachments; we saw their political views and passions but learn little of them as people. Although its documentary style is more believable and gives a real sense of "being there" I felt Michael Collins had a stronger centre in the form of Liam Neeson's powerhouse performance and the wider scope had more value as a piece of entertainment. This film is still a powerful window on a tragic piece of Irish history however and if watched in conjunction with Jordan's biopic, makes for a extremely interesting companion piece.
axadntpron
axadntpron

Super Reviewer

November 14, 2011
This film tackles head on the all-consuming power of an idea and the evolving nature of that idea in the face of reality. Like other films about the liberation movement in Northern Ireland such as Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday or Steve McQueen's Hunger, it is brutal, difficult to watch, and enraging. However, even in the face of these atrocities committed by the British, Loach shows that this isn't the timeless battle of good vs. evil, but rather one group of humans subjugating another. The monsters are in many ways innocent themselves and the oppressed are capable of the same barbarism showcased by their oppressors. It is an important film and one that is exceptionally well made.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

November 28, 2011
A well-done, powerful story concerning the battle for Ireland amongst the IRA (led by Cillian Murphy) against the power-hungry British during the 1920's. Director Ken Loach picked out some really gorgeous backdrops to film this story, and this add to his overall epic scope concerning the themes of loyalty, freedom, and family. Murphy's wonderful turn can not be understated, as he remains a scrawny but intense hero whose shift in character is handled exceptionally well. The movie overall is not a masterpiece, given it has some slow parts as well as a mega-depressing ending that needed a little more closure. Still a fine film in many respects, and definitely worth a view.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

May 4, 2011
Historical films are to be approached with caution these days but in Loach you can trust. This is an uncomfortable but balanced history lesson, never really showing anyone in a particularly great light but never shying away from the human condition, warts and all. It's very well shot and the acting is superb, Cillian Murphy dislikers may want to rethink avoiding this one but Ken Loach fans can be rest assured it's another great film from him. Brilliant.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

January 1, 2010
This one was a let down. I've seen many such stories of revolutionaries (replace Irish by Indians) fighting against British, and compared to them, this seemed quite pale (no offense intended).

Having said that, I gotta admit that it wasn't a total failure. The vicious circle of violence set through the British soldiers killing the Irish, and in retaliation, the Irish revolutionaries killing the British, enlightened me to realize the indepth implication of the quote: "An eye for an eye will make the world blind." Till date, I considered it to be BS. It's so simple, yet so difficult to understand that violence only breeds violence. No matter what the motive, the ultimate result of violence is destruction. (Before long, all this knowledge will evaporate into thin air.)
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

January 8, 2010
fine acting and beautiful cinematography in this drama of the early years of the irish republican army. english director ken loach makes his sympathies known in the war against the occupation and they aren't with his fellow countrymen. many powerful scenes but the ending goes over the top for effect. accents are a bit thick for americans but i totally respect loach's refusal to compromise
Conner R

Super Reviewer

November 17, 2009
Saw this in Ireland and it was like the best movie to see there. Cillian Murphy is unbelievable in this. It's a perfect example of a time when every aspect of a film is perfect from set to cinematography. The story is so well done that it doesn't even feel like a war movie. The look of it is authentic as can be and complements the tone nicely. Again, the acting is amazing as well as the direction. It's so realistic it's almost scary.
LorenzoVonMatterhorn
LorenzoVonMatterhorn

Super Reviewer

July 30, 2009
"I tried not to get into this war, and did, now I try to get out, and can't."

A sympathetic look at Republicans in early 20th century Ireland, and two brothers who are torn apart by anti-Brit rebellion.

REVIEW
This fascinating film about the Irish Republican Army in 1920s Ireland has an improvisatory feel about it. Not many scenes in the movie feel scripted. There are many scenes showing groups of men and women arguing, debating and fighting, but it all feels natural, and like the way these kinds of moments would play out in real life. Indeed, thinking back on the movie, it seems like much of it took place without dialogue, or at least without significant dialogue. This may be an odd comparison, but it reminded me of Michael Cimino's style of film-making in "The Deer Hunter" and "Heaven's Gate": the emphasis on male solidarity up against forces too strong to oppose, the environment almost becoming a character in the film, the loosely choreographed scenes and the fact that much information is conveyed through imagery rather than words.

The nominal focus of the film is on two brothers who start out on the same side of the Irish/British conflict, but who become opposed to one another as the IRA fragments into conflicting factions. The brother against brother plot line is of course meant to symbolize a larger and more universal struggle, but it's not dealt with in a heavy-handed manner.

A very good and overlooked film.
maxthesax
maxthesax

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2009
An interesting and arresting period piece that well captures the idealism and the rag-tag elements of those who first banded together to throw off the yoke of Britain.

After fighting for a free country, two brothers end up opposing each other over the peace treaty that still places Ireland under British rule (independant but owing "loyalty" to the crown. Both site the sacrifices made to get to the treaty, but while one thinks it is a positive step, the other thinks it is a goal-line fumble. When the latters' faction begins to disrupt the new provisional government, the first brother, now a shaker and mover in the new regime, seeks out his brother and has him executed. A "nasty bit of work" as the Brits would say.

Overtones of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" run through the second half of the film as power oversteps idealism and as usual when you get any group of people in a room, there are as many differing opinions as there are people. In the end everyone is a victim, mostly of their own misplaced idealism.

The film has some harrowing and very "grue" moments, and yet oftimes seems somehow detached, as if you're watching events unfold from a distance. What does shine through is the totalitarianism of their ideals and the inner strength it takes to live up to those ideals.
Ross C

Super Reviewer

April 11, 2007
Not a pleasant movie by any means. Almost constant shouting and conflict, and all seemingly for nothing. A brutal account of rural Irish life around the time of Ireland's independence.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

September 16, 2008
Powerful film from Ken Loach with a great performance from Cillian Murphy. I learned a lot, but there were times that I felt disconnected from the characters, but I understand that Loach was trying to pack a lot of information into the film.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

April 8, 2007
I know this film is supposed to be great, but I just couldn't get excited about it
Luke B

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2008
Similar to Braveheart in its freedom achieving against the British empire. Here however it is handled slightly better. Although the English are still shown as mostly one dimensional characters who mutter the single repeated line "You Irish bastards" at least there are attempts at humanity with one officer detailing the stresses of the soldiers in WW1 and a Scottish soldier who sympathises with the Irish. Probably after watching Braveheart. The real great moments of this film detail the hypocrisy of just about everyone. Murphy is brilliant as first the reluctant executioner and then the hard ass patriot. The film shows how he chastises his ex collegues for shooting an unarmed man in the back when it is one of his own, yet he has no problems when it was the English. We also get a great counterpart in Delaney who goes from no compromise, to taking the wealth of the rich to finally settling with the Brits. It is the arguments of these two that drive the film. Just a shame that it doesn't really take off until the midway point. Beautifully shot, but awkwardly paced in moments where it can't balance politics, action and drama.
bbcfloridabound
bbcfloridabound

Super Reviewer

June 15, 2008
Moving says it all in one word, But first film I have rated that high and not added it to my Favorite Films list. If you have 2 plus hours sit down and enjoy some of the younest fine acting you will see today.
Pierluigi P

Super Reviewer

August 2, 2007
The struggle of Irish people to obtain their freedom is not a new subject in the vast film universe, and Ken Loach approaches it in an honest and correct way. The story shows all the suffering, sweat, blood and tears without any ornament. the ending is moving, and profoundly bitter.
puffchunk
puffchunk

Super Reviewer

November 1, 2007
I didn't even know this happened so recently. Good cast, and interesting for the first half. The second half I started to wander my eyes around the living room. I liked that this movie actually has people stutter and mess up words but do it realistically and without drawing attention to itself. Most movies everyone speaks perfectly.
Dr Blood  

Super Reviewer

July 3, 2007
This film is a "Braveheart" (or even "Rob Roy") wannabe but with no big name stars, even more unintelligible dialogue, a lack of any acting skills anywhere and a contrived storyline that is only designed to make anyone British watching it ashamed to be so. A lot of people with "agendas" will overate "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" purely because of its subject matter. It's just nothing very original and isn't particularly well done.
CloudStrife84
CloudStrife84

Super Reviewer

June 7, 2007
I had no prior knowledge of the particular conflict portrayed in this movie, but despite that it managed to keep my interest all the way through, thanks to its good story, nice pacing and excellent directing. It could have been even better though if the ending wasn't so depressing.
Jeremy S

Super Reviewer

April 14, 2007
The winner of the the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this film had a lot to live up to. By that it mean the Cannes winner is almost always an independent slightly controversial 'out there', 'cutting edge' film, films like Elephant with it's unique camera shots and Pulp Fiction with it's fragmented story line. By these standards this film was not what one would expect from a Cannes winner. Yes it could be seen as controversial for it's strongly anti-British mentality and for dealing with the politically charged subject of Irish Independence, but it is by no means 'cutting edge' or 'out there'. The film's narrative and film style is traditional, even the title comes from a 19th-century Irish song. More than anything the film is an emotional gripping drama at has strong relevance for out troubled world today. Personally, from my Irish English heritage, the film resonated with me reminding me of the stories my grandfather would tell me but nowhere near as moving. The subject is still a 'touchy one' in my household today. In the end the film fell short of greatness. The message of brother vs brother drowning the more important over arching message of national independence. Film's that come to mind Ghandi and Bravehaert dealt with similar subjects and yet were far more powerful.
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