- Jul 6, 2003
For Queen and Country
Film Length: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed Widescreen (1.66:1)
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
Audio: English - Monaural
June 1st, 2004
In For Queen and Country, Denzel Washington (who mimics an English accent pretty well) stars as Reuben James, a man who joined the British armed forces to escape his decaying neighborhood, only to return home years later and find things in an even greater state of disarray than before. Indeed, after return from his tour of duty as a paratrooper, Reuben finds drugs, crime, and racist police officers all around him.
More disturbingly, despite fighting for Britain in the Falkland Islands, among other places, Reuben is dismayed to find that he is no longer considered to be a citizen of the UK (because he was born in St. Lucia). Interestingly, until the point where he learns his citizenship has been denied, and he may face extradition, Reuben has been adjusting to life outside of the service as well as can be expected. Apparently, black men in 1980s Great Britain had to deal with the same racism their American counterparts did, especially at the lower socioeconomic levels, but Reuben seems to be accepting of this to some degree.
Indeed, after Reuben returns to civilian life, we see him seeking work, though his efforts meet without much success. His search hits many different dead ends, but most of the time he is denied work based upon the color of his skin. Still, Mr. James remains undeterred, because he understands society and seems to expect such mistreatment. For Reuben, racism is just a sad fact of life, and he deals with it as best he can.
Well, as the story rolls along, we learn that the way Reuben deals with racism is one thing, but when the country he fought for belittles his patriotism and service in the armed forces by refusing to acknowledge his passport, he reaches a breaking point. Feeling alienated and unappreciated by his government after putting his life on the line in its service, Reuben is pushed towards a mental breakdown. Unfortunately, any tension that should coincide with this plot development is absent, largely because of the film’s sluggish pace.
Things only get worse for Reuben, as he gets mixed up with drug pusher he knows from his army days. Finally, when he is a witness to the murder of a policeman, he is persuaded by a tough-as-nails detective (George Baker) to help, even though he might pay a heavy price for doing so. Honestly, it was already in critical condition, and this cheap attempt to turn this character study into a thriller makes For Queen and Country go code blue, but not before all of the elements of a typical thriller are thrown into the cinematic stew pot.
For instance, a “villain” (and that is probably a stretch) is offered up, in the form of the aforementioned tough detective that is only there because the story requires it. There is also a thinly written female love interest (Amanda Redman) that disappears from the film almost as spontaneously as she appeared. In addition, an overly elaborate link between the police and the drug distribution network that Reuben has become caught in the middle of is introduced. And why, pray tell? Well, in my opinion, it seems as if the only reason is that the filmmakers needed some way to wrap this mess up. And what better way to do so than to turn a plodding drama into a generic thriller, and then tie a neat little bow on it with a truly contrived final sequence?
Although it may not have been a better movie, it is unfortunate that the filmmakers gave up on the Reuben James character and turned this into a sub-standard thriller. Really, the only positive thing about this film is Denzel Washington, who makes the character an engaging, sympathetic person for as long as the script would allow him to do so. Indeed, in his pre-Glory days, the glimpses of the amazing actor he would later become are already evident. It is a real shame his effort was wasted on this generic plot. Unless you absolutely have to see everything Denzel Washington has done, you will probably want to skip this one!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
For this catalog release, MGM offers up a letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1) transfer, which actually treats the source material fairly, despite its non-anamorphic nature. More specifically, colors are generally reproduced in an acceptable manner, although they do tend to appear a little drab in some sequences. On the other hand, flesh tones look quite natural, and blacks are both deep and largely free of low-level noise, leading to above average shadow delineation throughout the film.
Better still, I did not notice much in the way of digital artifacts or edge enhancement halos, and there is only a hint of film grain visible, chiefly during the darker sequences. Fortunately, this never becomes more than a minor irritation though. Unfortunately, however, the image is a bit soft throughout, so fine detail is not very impressive.
In the final analysis, all of this adds up to a serviceable visual presentation of For Queen and Country, but not much more.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
For once, I really don’t have a lot to say. Really, For Queen and Country is mostly dialogue driven, so the monaural presentation gets the job done in a satisfactory manner. Specifically, the audio is crisply delivered, without sibilance, distortion, or other audio anomalies, and dialogue is both warm sounding and easily discernable. Granted, the soundstage is not particularly expansive, and the score does not boast the highest fidelity, but there really is not too much to complain about.
The theatrical trailer for For Queen and Country is included.
(on a five-point scale)
Movie: :star: :star:
Video: :star: :star: :star:
Audio: :star: :star: :star:
Overall: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
I can’t think of a better way to describe this film and DVD than saying it is mediocre, all the way around. While Denzel Washington turns in a fine performance, For Queen and Country is just not that worthwhile a film. Moreover, the visual and audio presentations, while not the worst I have ever seen, do just enough to get the job done, and the only extra included is the theatrical trailer.
If you want to see a decent Denzel Washington thriller that many people may have missed, I recommend checking out Fallen or Out of Time instead of spending any money on this!