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The Brylcreem Boys Review

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In a WW II prison camp, which was set aside by "neutral" Ireland to have both Allied and German prisoners, tensions begin to arise when ace German pilot Von Stegenbek (MacFadyen), arrives in the same camp as Myles Keogh (Campbell), the American pilot he shot down.

★★★★★

Based loosely on real life events, The Brylcreem Boys takes place in an internment camp during World War II. Set aside by a "neutral" Ireland to have both Allied and German prisoners, tensions begin to arise when ace German pilot Von Stegenbek (MacFadyen), arrives in the same camp as Myles Keogh (Campbell), the American pilot he shot down.

With the Isle Of Man doubling for Ireland, the direction makes full use of its sweeping vistas as the two sets of prisoners wage a war of attrition in the best traditions of Escape To Victory. Owing to the eccentric rules of camp commandant O'Brien (Byrne), prisoners are allowed out on day-release passes, allowing a love triangle to develop between MacFadyen, Campbell and newcomer Jean Butler as Mattie Guerin. Through these obvious romantic difficulties, the two men learn to understand and appreciate the futility of war and begin to devise a plan to escape.

A strong supporting cast, including Joe McGann as beastly Captain Duigan and comic light relief from William McNamara as nutball Sam Gunn, provide a marvellous distraction. But problems begin to arise when director Ryan decides to tackle "difficult" subjects such as Allied-Irish-German relations, something which seems ill-at-ease with the overall light-hearted tone of the film.

The Brylcreem Boys (an indigenous nickname for the grease-haired convicts) may gloss over more important issues in favour of Dad's Army-style humour, but a sparkling performance from Byrne and the mad-as-a-dog McNamara help to turn what could've been a dreary trawl through history into an unexpected pleasure.

A sparkling performance from Byrne and the mad-as-a-dog McNamara help to turn what could've been a dreary trawl through history into an unexpected pleasure.

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