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Neil Jordan
Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, Alan Rickman
Writing Credits:
Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan's historical biopic of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, the man who led a guerrilla war against the UK, helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State, and led the National Army during the Irish Civil War.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$187,052 on 6 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby 2.0
Castillian Spanish Dolby 2.0
Latin Spanish Dolby 2.0
Castillian Spanish
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Castillian Spanish
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 3/22/2016

• Audio commentary from Writer/Director Neil Jordan
• “In Conversation with Neil Jordan” Featurette
• “South Bank Show” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Michael Collins [Blu-Ray] (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 12, 2016)

Back when I reviewed 2009’s Taken, I found the notion of Liam Neeson as action hero to seem surprising. Prior to 2009, Neeson dabbled in “popcorn fare” like Batman Begins and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but he remained best-known as a “serious actor” via flicks like Schindler’s List.

Since Taken, though, Neeson’s public profile has changed radically. Now he seems commonly viewed as an AARP-eligible badass, as he rarely takes on straight dramas any more.

With 1996’s Michael Collins, we revisit Neeson back during his “serious” phase. Set during the 1910s, Michael Collins (Neeson) leads the opposition to the British occupation of Ireland. He founds the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a group dedicated to Irish independence.

Collins’ methods cause controversy, as under his leadership, the IRA favors violent tactics. We follow Collins’ life and IRA career as he works to further his cause.

With a tale such as Collins, I find it tough to decide how much to judge the history and how much to review the movie itself. Film fans go through the eternal debate to decide how accurate a flick needs to be and how much creative license it can take.

In this instance, I’ll leave debates about historical accuracy to others. I’ve read indications that Collins takes a lot of liberties, but I enjoy far too little knowledge of the subject matter to get into that.

This leaves me free to judge Collins solely as a cinematic experience, and in that regard, I think it comes with problems. The main concern comes from its lack of depth, as it does too little to sketch out Collins. The lead goes through a slew of changes throughout the tale, but the film examines these poorly.

One minute Collins exalts armed resistance and the next he preaches peace. I’m sure the real-life character had good reasons for his transition, but the movie lacks sufficient exploration of his decisions. This Collins feels like a pinball who jolts from one position to another without much obvious logic.

The story doesn’t proceed in an especially smooth manner either, largely due to the romantic subplot it shoehorns into the proceedings. We see a love triangle among Collins, his lieutenant Harry Boland (Aidan Quinn) and Kitty Kiernan (Julia Roberts). These scenes integrate poorly, as they essentially just crop up whenever the filmmakers need to lighten the mood.

That doesn’t work. Rather than give the audience a respite from the violence and tension, the romantic scenes feel as extraneous as they are. Had the story concentrated on the bonds among Collins and his partners, it would’ve developed enough emotion on its own.

Yes, I realize Collins was actually engaged to Kiernan and that an apparent love triangle did exist, so I can’t accuse the filmmakers of too much fictionalization there. I do feel this side of the tale comes across as extraneous, though; the movie wants to use Kitty as a primary character but she seems like a plot device.

Collins does come with a strong cast, most of whom do fine. Roberts seems oddly uncharismatic as Kitty, but Neeson embodies Collins in a positive manner. Heck, he even makes the character’s abrupt changes almost seem logical.

Almost, but Neeson can’t save the general randomness of the narrative. Michael Collins does flare to life on occasion, and I appreciate the glimpses of this pivotal person in Irish history. Unfortunately, the movie remains too inconsistent to succeed.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Michael Collins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film held up well over the last 20 years.

Sharpness looked fine. A bit of softness crept into a few interior shots, but not enough to really mar the movie. The flick mostly showed fairly good definition and delineation. Jagged edges and shimmering were no problem, and no edge haloes appeared. Print flaws also failed to appear.

Colors worked reasonably well. The flick went with a stylized palette that often favored blues. , Other hues appeared too, and they seemed positive. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not too thick. The image was more than satisfactory.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it added some kick to the proceedings. Scenes with violence brought out the most evocative moments, as battles, riots and related sequences managed to use the five channels in an involving manner. General ambience also worked fine, and music showed good imaging.

Audio quality also satisfied. Speech occasionally seemed a smidgen reedy, but the lines were usually natural, and music displayed nice range. Effects boasted pretty solid accuracy and punch, especially during those louder scenes. The mix suited the story.

When we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from writer/director Neil Jordan. He offers a running, screen-specific look at the source material and its adaptation, what led Jordan to the film, history and liberties, cast and performances, sets and locations, period details, and related topics.

My only complaint here stems from the moderate amount of dead air that mars the commentary. While Jordan chats most of the time, he leaves more than a few gaps.

However, Jordan more than compensates for these lapses with the high quality of his comments. He covers a solid array of topics and does so in an informative manner. Jordan even reveals misgivings he has about the real Michael Collins and questions some of his filmmaking choices. Jordan delivers a consistently excellent chat.

We hear more from the writer/director via the four-minute, 43-second In Conversation with Neil Jordan. He discusses how he came to the film, reflections on the subject matter, cast and performances, and sets and locations. This is a fairly simple overview and includes no facts not already heard in the commentary.

South Bank Show runs 51 minutes, 11 seconds and features Jordan, Michael Collins biographer Tim Pat Coogan, historian John Regan, counter-insurgency expert Col. Michael Dewar, Collins’ niece Mary Banotti, critic/playwright Tom Paulin, Progressive Unionist Party spokesman David Ervine, producer Stephen Woolley, Sunday Tribune Northern Editor Ed Moloney, and actor Liam Neeson. We get biographical info about Collins as well as the rebellion he led and aspects of the film.

I feared that “South Bank” would offer a glib promo piece, but the opposite proves true. We get excellent details about the history behind the movie and find virtually zero fluff. The program works really well.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find nine Deleted Scenes. These fill a total of six minutes and show a mix of short tidbits. We get a smidgen of exposition, some violence and a laugh or two. They’re interesting to see but largely insubstantial.

With a lot of talent behind it and an intriguing historical subject, I hoped to enjoy Michael Collins. Unfortunately, the movie explores its topics in such an erratic manner that it loses steam as it goes. The Blu-ray provides generally strong picture and audio along with a small but informative collection of bonus materials. Collins shines at times but it can’t maintain the consistency it needs.