Historical cinema has a shameful history of being more cinematic than historical, but Michael Collins, Neil Jordan's extraordinary epic about the founder of the Irish Republican Army, is an exception. Liam Neeson's performance as Collins is at once stirring and blood-curdling, as befits the role of a man who murdered for a cause he believed was just, but was willing to stop when he believed his objective was reached. Aidan Quinn is torn and tormented as revolutionary co-conspirator Harry Boland, and Alan Rickman seamlessly cold-blooded and scheming as then-president Eamon De Valera. Perhaps the only jarring note in Michael Collins' storyline is the inflated importance of Kitty Kiernan, Collins' fiancée, with whom Boland was also infatuated. By playing up this love triangle, Jordan emphasizes the growing friction between Neeson and Quinn, but also brings in a somewhat disoriented Julia Roberts. But that's a minor quibble. The story of Michael Collins is inspirational enough, and its quintessentially Irish undercurrent of tragedy is strong enough, to make a great film possible through sheer passion alone.
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