British director Ken Loach's masterful tale of the early days of the Irish Republican Army supplies the second end of a conversation started by Loach's excellent 1995 Spanish Civil War drama Land and Freedom. Both represent profound considerations of the fog of wars, those that rage between nations and, all too often, within. But The Wind That Shakes the Barley also takes the form of a thriller, as an idealistic Cork medical student (Cillian Murphy) finds himself forgoing a London internship to become a freedom fighter (though some would say terrorist) on the home front. Though it spans just over a year (1920-'21) of actual history, the film implicitly casts one weary eye back to the failed Irish Republican Brotherhood uprising of 1916 and the other forward to the seven decades of bloodshed that would yet fall upon Irish soil before the arrival of something approximating peace. Finally, it weeps for the way in which friends -- and even brothers -- who once fought side by side against a collective oppressor can, in a moment, find themselves stationed on opposite sides of an ideological divide.
Ken LoachCillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham, Gerard Kearney, William Ruane, Roger Allam, Frank Bourke, Fergus Burke, Denis Conway, John CreanPaul LavertyRebecca O' BrienIFC First Take