DVD Review: The Wind That Shakes the Barley

IFC First Take
Movie ••••½ Picture •••½ Sound •••½ Extras •••½

With The Wind That Shakes the Barley, master filmmaker Ken Loach has created a beautiful, involving, and politically charged treatise on the Irish experience of the 1920s. It explores the Republicans' fight for independence and the civil war that followed the partitioning of Ireland, seen through the eyes of two brothers (Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney) who find themselves on opposite sides of the ideological divide.

Shot on location in County Cork, the film shows an Irish countryside awash in various green and brown tones, which seem to be a touch muted - probably to imbue the action with a sense of historical context. In contrast, the film's bloodier scenes have deeply saturated reds, which maximize the emotional impact.

The 5.1-channel mix is at its best not during the gunplay, but during the opening sequence, which features the traditional Irish sport of hurling. The sounds of the game come at you from all directions, resulting in an extremely natural and immersive sonic experience.

There aren't many extras, but the ones that are here are well worth watching. You get a 45-minute documentary on Loach and his career as well as a commentary by the director and an Irish academic, Donal O'Driscoll. Loach serves up some background on the production, but he spends most of his time discussing the politics of the era with the professor. It's all very informative, and a must-listen for Irish and British history buffs. [NR] English, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.

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