For Queen and Country Review

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Denzel Washington plays Reuben James, a Falklands veteran returning from the grim realities of war to the grim realities of 80's Britain, where institutional racism acts as a blanket over any dreams of reintegration James might have.


For Queen and Country? This rhetorical question pounds in the head of James, leaving the army and returning home to 80s Britain eight years down the line.

Arriving back to a high-rise, low-expectation existence, Reuben's hopes are quickly dashed. He suffers from job rebuffs, racism at the hands of a gun-toting CID man (Craig Fairbrass) and the final humiliation of reapplying for British citizenship, courtesy of the new Nationality Act—something which actually happened to the soldier on whose story the film is based. His crisis is shared by a white friend, war-wounded Fish (Dorian Healy), whose family busts up in the face of electricity disconnection and his alcoholism, and their entwined stories relentlessly power to an unforgettable, and perhaps gratuitously depressing and violent, climax.

Strongly resonant of the events of Broadwater Farm, as a race relations comment the film pulls no punches, but the fast-moving action leaves it prone to corner-cutting. The estate's chummy Dixon Of Dock Green copper works only as an expendable paper-thin parody and fallguy, drug dealer turned yuppie businessman Colin is unconvincingly interested in Reuben's fate, and the choice of Denzel Washington, though perfect for his acting abilities, falls down when it comes to his dreadful Sarf London accent (he managed a South African accent with considerably more aplomb in Cry Freedom).

For Queen And Country aims to rise above the TV drama, but is firmly rooted in the Euston Films/Sweeney tradition more suited to the small screen. A jolly caper it isn't, but for gritty thrills and powerful drama, it delivers.

Well acted and directed, the film suffers from labouring on truths that are painfully obvious to most reasonable observers.