The first unassailably great film of 2007, this account of small-town Irish lads circa 1920 who teach themselves the basics of guerrilla warfare—in order to rid their nation of rifle-toting Brits—has striking parallels to America’s ongoing jingoist adventures in Iraq. But director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty, who took home last year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, never force or emphasize political points in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. They concentrate at first on the brutality of British soldiers attacking unarmed Irish country folk; the inevitable backlash against the occupying army; and then the passionate disagreements over the uses of freedom, which in turn lead to still more bloodshed. The filmmakers show us the ease with which liberators become oppressors.
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