Daniel Day-Lewis, carrying Danny's transformation in his eyes, can convey more without speaking than most actors can in a monologue.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

In "The Boxer," Jim Sheridan has once again caught the explosive violence and factional rages that make the Irish Troubles both incomprehensible and tragic. This is a grim story brought to fierce emotional life by Daniel Day-Lewis as Danny, and Emily Watson as Maggie, a team beautifully matched in depth and presence.

Danny and Maggie have not seen each other during the 14 years Danny has been imprisoned for IRA terrorism. They meet again as Danny returns to the Belfast battle zone, determined to work for peace. The strength of their bond is palpable, the prospects for their future bleak. Danny's past and Maggie's family ties put them at the center of trouble.

As the wife of a prisoner and the daughter of Joe Hamill (Brian Cox), an IRA leader weary of violence, Maggie is caught tightly in the culture of this war. She must be loyal to her husband, a man she has never loved, and to her father, who is threading his way through secret peace negotiations that enrage the unyielding wing of the faction led by Harry (Gerard McSorley), a brutal ideologue.

Danny revives the Holy Family Boxing Club in the non-sectarian community center that welcomes both Protestants and Catholics. If his club is a metaphor for inclusion, Danny, as the club's ranking boxer, becomes a leader for a peaceful solution at the neighborhood level. The movie unfolds in the shadow of the predictable chaos of factional rivalries and rage.

"The Boxer" is lifted beyond its dark reality by fine performances. Brian Cox's negotiator is both tough and gentle; he's a man weary all the way through of watching boys lose their youth to violence and death. Emily Watson, who stunned moviegoers in "Breaking the Waves," gives Maggie a sense of infinite depth. Daniel Day-Lewis, carrying Danny's transformation in his eyes, can convey more without speaking than most actors can in a monologue. The economy of his gestures gives power to his words. Together, Watson and Day-Lewis are riveting.

Jim Sheridan and Terry George have managed, separately in Sheridan's "In the Name of the Father" and in George's "Some Mother's Son," and together in "The Boxer," which they co-wrote, to offer a painful chronicle of the continuing suffering of Northern Ireland. These are powerful films that leave audiences bewildered by the complexities of a war that explodes onto the front pages with grim regularity. The news stories, like the movies of Sheridan and George, are often rooted in personal vengeance that obscures the issues that divide the police, the British, the Catholics, and the Protestants.

Mr. Sheridan focuses on people trying to live on in the silence between bursts of violence. By showing how the bloodshed twists their lives, he manages again to catch the strange juxtaposition of humanity and inhumanity that has let this war continue for 28 years. His hope lies in telling the world about the courage and resilience of people who believe that 28 years is long enough.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Universal
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h47m

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