Sunday, July 13, 2014

RESURRECTED: Blu-ray (Castle Pictures/Hobo Films, 1989) Twilight Time

1982 was not a banner year in Britain, perhaps because it marked the beginning of one of the bloodiest Imperial conflicts in modern British history; Margaret Thatcher’s bold and aggressive reprisals launched against the Argentinian junta invasion that unexpectedly set off a powder keg in the Falkland Islands: 74 days of pre-modern-mechanized warfare half way around the world, and in an area no one outside of Britain had ever even heard of before. Here, was Britain’s gallant last stand – it seemed – the martyring of her young men against a subversive enemy attack that No. 10 Downing Street simply would not tolerate. 
The human casualties were far more devastating than perhaps either side had first considered. Alas, Britain’s victory was to come at a very high cost; reinvigorating Thatcher’s government at a desperately needed time; the groundswell of national revivalism, with resplendent parades up and down Constitution Hill, effectively obliterating the real human fallout continuing to impact the national pride for some years thereafter.
The Falkland War will always be heavily debated; the more recent demonization of Thatcher’s iron lady and the political upheaval she wrought – both, at home and abroad – perennially reviving the Falkland’s as a hotbed for political activism. Alas, in all the immediate chaos and recovery, the media stirring ample confusion and victory celebrations across the land, one story refused to get buried: that of Philip Williams: an eighteen year old ex-guardsman in the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards who, along with his regiment, stormed the high points of Mount Tumbledown on the night of June 13th 1982.
What came next – at least for Philips – will forever remain a mystery; also a tragedy, the young soldier disappearing without a trace and presumed dead back home for nearly two months, suffering from amnesia and malnutrition, only to be miraculously resurrected from the dead by a gracious whim of fate, and then, to be displaced by a tidal wave of tabloid fodder that threatened to murder his reputation; made a shameful laughing stock in his own hometown. Williams; vilified in the media as a deserter, unable to account for his whereabouts and later brutalized by members of his own regiment in their idiotic institutionalized bullying meant to prove a point.
One can definitely sense the weight of William’s secret shame in director, Paul Greengrass’ Resurrected (1989); a poignantly told and ambitiously pursued passion project almost from the moment Greengrass found himself in Buenos Aires on the night Argentina invaded the neighboring Falklands. Greengrass, who had begun his career making ‘World of Action’ documentaries for Granada TV, would carry the memory of that night long into the future; also stirred by a deepening fascination with Williams’ own story which, by the time of Greengrass’ return to Britain, had come full circle in the rag-mags as something of a colossal joke and embarrassment.
However, it wasn’t until some years later the project would truly begin to crystalize inside Greengrass’ mind; a chance meeting with Williams, who recalled the night in question with great clarity, up to the point where an exploding shell knocked him senseless to the ground; stumbling for days and surviving on worms, unaware the war had ended; made the scapegoat by his fellow soldiers to mask their own combat fatigue, and, publicly pillared as a coward. The vividness of this exchange with Williams, at first, placed upon a pedestal, then just as quickly defrocked of his heroism – remained ensconced in Greengrass’ memory. Alas, he could find no one at Granada to take a sincere interest in his ambitions to retell Williams’ story as a serious drama.
Mercifully, kismet was not entirely against Greengrass; another happenstance evolving as he was preparing to film the Live Aid concerts. In his casual ‘afterhours’ discussions with the program’s producers, Adrian Hughes and Tara Prem, Greengrass made an impassioned pitch, relaying Williams’ story and catching Hughes and Prem’s ears as well as their interest. Hughes and Prem then coaxed the project along by introducing Greengrass to writer, Martin Allen, who delivered a rough outline and first draft of the screenplay in near record time; the basis of what would ultimately become Greengrass’ directorial debut: Resurrected. In planning the project, Greengrass was hesitant to stick to the facts entirely, recognizing Tumbledown; another competing film in the works. But also, he was extremely wary of reviving the specters in Williams’ own life. For Williams, the psychological devastation of hand-to-hand combat had come second to the pang of hypocritical nonsense endured upon returning home, with not even his own family believing his story for a time. Indeed, Resurrected remains a bittersweet tale of what is today more commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but back in 1982 was never even considered, much less discussed; and even after its acknowledgement, rarely mentioned except in hushed conversations.
Resurrected manages to do the nearly impossible; get inside a returning soldier’s brain, deconstructing the shell shock and isolation from the inside out and illustrating the disturbing callousness of these well-intended and others, who would have the audacity to view any military man’s battlefront experience in clear-cut terms. At one point, the fictionalized Kevin Deakin (David Thewlis) confronts his family, friends and town revelers at a bonfire; all of them too easily suspicious of his story, believing the worst: that he’s holding something back. “If I’m not a hero then I’m a deserter,” he admonishes them, “The truth is I’m neither.”
Deakin’s inability to intellectualize the conflict in concrete terms, of course, becomes problematic to these laymen who know nothing of war or its idiosyncratic inconsistencies. For, in never having experienced the terror and bloodshed firsthand they have only the televised accounts and newspaper clippings to feed their memory. What Greengrass does in Resurrected spectacularly well is to illustrate how such memories are not only skewed by opinion and media spin, but equally deprive us of any harsher understanding of the realities of war itself; replaced and then forever preserved in our collective consciousness as banal and misguided snippets culled from newsreel footage. Alas, no amount of Kevin’s explaining will suffice.  So, when Kevin’s dad (Tom Bell) becomes frustrated with his son’s despondency, challenging his ethics as well as his story, Kevin is quick to inquire as to what war he fought in; relaying only the briefest tidbits of war’s grotesqueness, never effectively serialized in history books, on television or in the movies. 
It’s a sobering moment, to be sure, and in a movie of such like-minded clarifying events, this one nevertheless stands in stark relief. The heartbreak is real, the isolation - deafening, the fallout of being ostracized, first by family and mates, and finally by the military machine, who cut their losses and Kevin with an honorable discharge, but only after a brutal hazing incident with metal-bristled push brooms and bleach could possibly lead to reprisals on the other side; Resurrected is a tale of redemption found from within and forgiveness met at the point of a gun, though never to be achieved in the minds of some who will always consider Kevin Deakin a great discomfiture.  The film’s number one strength is its screenplay, writer Martin Allen pulling no punches but also discovering immeasurable restraint in his drama. We get emotional context without amateur theatrics; also a modicum of verisimilitude, the story feeling lived in, the characters no less genuine.
The other undeniable asset is David Thewlis’ affecting performance; truly brilliant given Thewlis was then something of a novice in his art. Certainly, he had never made a movie before; his 4-year post-graduate career from the School of Dramatics committed to a litany of TV commercials, some minor theater and infrequent appearances on local sitcoms. The breadth of Resurrected’s painstakingly constructed drama demands intuitiveness, also compassion, and an understanding of the actual events. In the pre-Google era, Thewlis culled his research from faded newspaper clippings; also by interviewing a select group of veterans who had served in the Falklands.
Alas, Thewlis did not meet the real Philip Williams until midway through the shoot; at first, marginally concerned his characterization would be judged as unlike the real McCoy. Indeed, Thewlis and Williams look nothing alike (one can catch a glimpse of the real Philip Williams, gaunt and stringy-haired, in the scene taking place at the arcade, ironically playing a shooting game as Thewlis - playing Williams - walks by). But Thewlis was to discover a kindred spirit in Williams; a frankness devoid of self-pity and a man who, in the interim since his discharge, had managed to put the past somewhat behind him; also, to completely embrace Thewlis’ incarnation as a creative mastering of his own ill-fated antiquity.  
Resurrected opens on a memorial in a tiny hamlet in Yorkshire; the Deakin family; Mr. and Mrs. (Tom Bell and Rita Tushingham), and younger brother, Gregory (Michael Pollitt) mourning the loss of their eldest, Kevin (David Thewlis) who has been missing since the successful invasion of Tumbledown. Also present are Kevin’s distraught girlfriend, Julie (Rudi Davies). Cut to a resolute figure aimlessly wandering the Falkland moors, stumbling onto the sheep farm of Denzil (Kenny Ireland) and Illeen Clausen (Philomena McDonagh). She’s empathetic toward the obviously fatigued and barely conscious stranger; Denzil far more suspicious and anxious to rid himself of this near mute young man to whom his wife has taken an immediate shine. In short order, the stranger gives up his name – Kevin Deakin!
Airlifted to the relative safety of England, along with other returning soldiers, Kevin is denied the media coverage of a tearful homecoming and reunion with his family; mother, father, Julie and Gregory detained by Captain Sinclair (William Hoyland) in an isolated part of the airport while the other men rush to embrace their families and sweethearts within camera shot. In short order, the reason for this isolation will become fully known to the Deakin family; also Kevin’s friends who, at first, give him a hero’s welcome with a proper pub crawl and band serenading his return. But when news in the tabloids breaks, branding Kevin a deserter, even the official military inquest and exoneration cannot dispel these nagging rumors. Besides, something is remiss about Kevin’s story. After all, how could anyone lose their memory and go missing for six weeks?!?
Inconceivably, the town slowly begins to turn against the Deakins; Julie remaining steadfast and at Kevin’s side until two disastrous incidents cause her to reconsider. The first occurs on the night of Kevin’s homecoming; Kevin unable to perform in bed or even show her the slightest interest in rekindling their lovemaking thereafter. The second incident is more violent; occurring at a seaside arcade, the electronic sounds and blinking lights triggering a flashback of the war that causes Kevin to momentarily forget himself, attempting to force himself on Julie.  It’s no use. Kevin is a broken man. Worse, he’s not the same kind-hearted fellow Julie fell in love with, and shortly thereafter she tells him so and moves on to another lover.
Kevin could, in fact, even accept that, if only his own mum and dad didn’t seem to be turning against him with their accusatory glances. While relaxing in the garden, Mr. Deakin confronts his son. If for no other reason than to save his own face in the town square, he wants to know unequivocally what happened ‘over there’; his inquiry tinged with more than a hint of condemnation and skepticism. In reply, Kevin challenges his father’s patriotism, asking him “What would you know about it? What would you know about anything? What war did you fight in?”  Kevin’s mother remains empathetic. But even she is being pulled in her opinions. Kevin’s one diehard believer remains his younger brother, Gregory, who even stops seeing a good playmate after he attempts to smear Kevin’s name in public.
While the rest of the town prepares to partake in an outdoor celebration and bonfire, Kevin is left to stew in his own juices; getting drunk alone before arriving at the social gathering and challenging the town to reconsider why they are so quick to judge him on matters they know absolutely nothing about. It is a sobering moment; Kevin demanding his father makes no apologies for him. He has nothing to hide and no reason to be ashamed. They’re all hypocrites, as far as he is concerned, ready and even eager to simply accept the worst about him. A short while later, Kevin returns to his military regiment barracks. But here too he is almost immediately challenged to explain himself by fellow soldier, Slaven (Christopher Fulford) who, mired in his own haunted despair and plagued by chronic and disturbing nightmares, is only to eager to seek a scapegoat for his anxieties by holding Kevin to the blame for desertion. Although Corporal Byker (Ewan Stewart) is sympathetic to Kevin’s claim to the contrary, he cannot remember anything that happened to him after a shell exploded only feet away during the battle, Byker does not stand in the way of Slaven and the other men continuing to taunt and later brutalize Kevin in the mess hall.
Kevin endures their berating with dignity. But things reach a critical head when the government awards all the men who fought in the Falklands a medal of honor for distinction. Seizing upon the opportunity to make an example of Kevin once and for all, Slaven leads the other soldiers in a storming of the barracks; Byker making a thinly veiled attempt to prevent what ultimately becomes a grotesque hazing incident, camouflaged in the trappings of a court-martial with Slaven acting as solicitor, judge and jury. Found guilty of the charge of desertion, the men forcibly strip and then carry Kevin into the showers, submersing and holding his head under water as they batter his naked body with metal-bristled push brooms. Slaven leaps into the fray to pummel Kevin, who by now is barely conscious, until Byker, at last, intercedes. Tortured to the point of unconsciousness, Kevin is left bloodied and bruised on the floor of the shower room.
No long thereafter, Kevin’s mum and dad arrive at the military hospital where he is recuperating. Kevin’s dad challenges Major Dunbar (Mark Wing-Davey) to bring those responsible for the hazing to justice but is instead rather callously told by Dunbar to reconsider perhaps Kevin was never cut out for the life of a military officer. Reunited at Kevin’s bedside, the family vows to stick together and support Kevin - whatever the truth. Realizing that Johnny Fodden (Gary Mavers), the boy whose life Kevin saved in the Falklands, who has lost half his brain, is lying only a few beds away from his own, Kevin gets up in the dead of night to sit with this catatonic survivor; the two staring blankly at a B&W television showing Man on the Run (1949); a Rank movie that ironically cast star, Kenneth More as an army deserter.
Resurrected is a compassionate and incredibly affecting movie; bolstered by David Thewlis’ heartrending central performance and a stellar supporting cast. The finely scripted drama derives from real-life situations; also from a collective and touching instinct put forth by the entire cast never to overplay their hands. Director Paul Greengrass is, of course, working on a labor of love – usually the best kind to produce stellar results. Then again; it can sometimes lead to a creative getting much too close and too involved in his own work. Thankfully, Greengrass never allows himself to go down this rabbit hole; even more impressive, considering Resurrected was his first stab at directing a drama. Together, Thewlis and Greengrass afford the real Philip Williams his justly due honor; no more the victim of his own celebrity, mangled and manipulated by military PR and the press’ ravenous need for a sensational tabloid headline. Greengrass would later regret not having the guts to actually name the character in the movie, Philip Williams. Nevertheless, it is Williams’ story we’re getting on the screen; mildly camouflaged via artistic license, though always maintaining its genuine feel and integrity for the plight of this real man.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, via their continued alliance to distribute Film 4 product has yielded a very fine 1080p transfer; one with richly saturated colors, gorgeous levels of contrast and superbly rendered fine details and film grain: in short – near reference quality and very appealing. There are virtually no complaints – visually; the transfer exceptionally film-like; the presentation immaculate and beautiful. The 2.0 DTS stereo is hardly groundbreaking, but it is a supremely faithful incarnation of the original soundtrack. TT affords us two interview pieces – one featuring director Greengrass, the other Thewlis; both offering rich and varied recollections on the making of the movie.  As always, we get TT’s isolated music and effects track, John E. Keane’s understated score given the full 5.1 to appreciate. Bottom line: Resurrected is one of those important, sadly underrated and unseen films almost entirely overlooked in the U.S., presumably because it has ‘no stars’. But it’s deserving of far better and hopefully this Blu-ray will revive interest in it.
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)


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