This sequel to his 1987 film ‘Hope and Glory’ is the best thing that John Boorman has directed since. It begins where the first film left off, continuing his autobiographical account of WWII and its aftermath. When we last saw Bill Rowan, the London schoolboy who served as Boorman’s alter ego, he was thanking Hitler for blowing his school to smithereens. ‘Queen and Country’ catches up with him (Callum Turner) nine years later.
It’s 1952, and the Korean War is in full swing. Bill is a burgeoning cinephile without a lick of interest in being forced to shoot at strangers several thousand miles away, but it’s only a matter of time before his conscription notice arrives. It’s at boot camp that he meets Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) and the two troublemakers soon become fast friends, doing their best to avoid one war while grappling with the fallout from another.
This is as achingly romantic a film as has ever been set during basic training. The brunt of Boorman’s bittersweet memories involve the lads chasing girls, teaching new recruits how to type and irritating the base’s pathologically strict commanding officer (David Thewlis). The stakes may seem low but it all comes together into a moving portrait of a nation that couldn’t account for all it had lost in a war that it won.