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Unusually noisy and violent for a Ken Loach feature, this melodramatic period picture about the messy birth of the Irish Republic in the early 1920s won the top prize at Cannes in 2006. Scripted by Loach regular Paul Laverty (Sweet Sixteen), it corresponds to leftist agitprop in some particulars but confounds predictable political agendas in others. Much of the violence registers as futile, regardless of where it's coming from or whether or not it's retaliatory. The drama revolves around two Irish brothers (Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney) whose ideas begin to diverge; both actors are good, but the ensemble playing predominates. As frequently happens in both Loach films and history, the betrayal of ideals, socialist and otherwise, leaves a harsh aftertaste, which made me feel sadder but not much wiser. 127 min.

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