Directed and Written by #TadghQuillManley
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
Filmmaking is a hard business, so it should be praised when anyone makes anything. Getting a project together, written, cast, shot and finalised in post-production can be an arduous battle that newcomers and established legends alike have suffered through. Perhaps even more admirable is when a young, passionate, filmmaker not only goes through this process but does so by handling many major duties their self and with a story that is a bold move. 17-year-old #TadghQuillManley (#YouOnlyLiveOnce and #TheGreatWesternRailway) is certainly an example of this, and the film enthusiast’s new film #BanditCountry, set in 1985 amidst ‘The Troubles’ is one that aims high, sadly it does not quite come off onscreen.
The story sees young man Pat Mcloughlan (#EdinPalmer) and friends finding a new way to occupy their time but this is one very dangerous road he and his pals are heading down. Opening with a well edited real-life newsreel montage of reports on IRA attacks, this sets its era from the off and with an opening ident also anchors its 80s aesthetic. What follows are moments centring on the young stars of the show, as their characters set up a movement of their own, and sequences where the woodland and rural settings the film are made use of. These locations act as appropriate and effective backdrops and a similar kind have been used in other films covering this kind of topic (for instance, they brought to mind the scenes with Forrest Whittaker and Stephen Rea in The Crying Game).
Unfortunately, as ambitious director/writer/editor Quill-Manley unfolds his story, it seems that there is perhaps more here than an under 13-minute film can handle. While the closing shootout and action sequences involving horses and driving (stunt driver credited as #PatrickManley) are done well, other moments are far more ropey (the inconsistent use of equally inconsistent effects) and certain parts of the script are rushed or too thin (side characters; explanations), leaving the overall story feeling a bit all over the place. The fluctuating styles (from drama to action to comedy) and visuals at work also add to this crammed in feel, one that leaves the story unsettled for its duration.
There is the odd bit of stilted acting (a movie reference dialogue) but largely the young cast do a fine job, it’s just a shame that these characters could not have been expanded more but again this whole project and its hefty goals were very high targets for a fresh filmmaker on a limited budget.
It feels particularly cruel to focus on the negative though because this is a film that attempts to tell a story with incredible aims, a story that wants to pick up on aspects of a very turbulent and brutal time, where violence and weapons were normalised and death was commonplace knowing not the boundaries of age. Bandit Country may not work as a whole and has the limitations of budget and a script compressed by the brief running length working against it but huge respect to this young team for pursuing their passion and setting their sights very high in the process! Never lose that bravery guys...