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'Queen and Country' suffers a big-screen identity crisis
Bill (Callum Turner) and Dawn (Tasmin Egerton) in "Queen and Country." - photo by Josh Terry
QUEEN AND COUNTRY two stars Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat Shortt, David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant, Vanessa Kirby, Tamsin Egerton; not rated but probable R (nudity, sexual situations, profanity); Broadway

Queen and Country is a sequel to Hope and Glory, a film released 28 years ago. A war drama set in Britain during The Blitz in World War II, Hope and Glory was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.

Queen and Country does not meet that same standard, though it is written and directed by John Boorman, the man behind the first film.

Set nine years after the events of Hope and Glory, Queen and Country sets its sights on postwar England as it copes with the Korean War and the transition from King George VI to Queen Elizabeth II.

Bill Rohan, only a boy during The Blitz, is now grown up inasmuch as 19 is considered grown up and played by Callum Turner. Bill is conscripted into the British military, teamed up with a mischievous fellow named Percy (Caleb Landry Jones) and assigned to be a typing instructor on the base.

Far from the conflict in Korea, Bill and Percy settle on a local enemy: Sgt. Major Bradley, played by David Thewlis (of "Harry Potter" fame). Bradley served with honor in WWII, saw action at Normandy and is disgusted at the rising generation.

This generational conflict is the heart of Queen and Country, a film that strives for poignancy but struggles with its own identity. Half the time it plays like a watered-down version of Catch-22, as Bill and Percy deal with Bradley and the absurd over-the-top RSM Digby (Brian F. OByrne). Petty capers like stealing the regiment clock occupy their time, and the buffoonish behavior of their superiors only justifies their attitudes.

On other occasions Queen and Country becomes deathly serious, such as when Bill pursues a mysterious beauty named Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton). Ophelia is slow to reveal much of her background, and resigned to a loveless relationship Bill cant pull her from.

The lack of substance to Bills gripes could be a commentary on a country stumbling to find its footing in the wake of a catastrophic war, but Queen and Countrys disparate parts never find enough glue to form a cohesive message.

Fans of the first film may enjoy the chance to see what happened to Hope and Glorys characters. At one point, Bill returns to his family home (dubbed The Sphinx) to deal with the myriad characters he grew up with. But its hard to think Queen and Country was worth the wait.

The identity problems extend beyond the narrative. The production gives off the look and feel of a TV movie it is being distributed by BBC Worldwide Americas but the unrated film features a stream of R-rated profanity that suggests it was never meant for the home audience.

One could also be forgiven for wondering if any major cigarette companies had a hand in the production. Obviously smoking was a much more common part of culture in the 1950s, but Queen and Countrys characters treat the experience like it is making them one with the universe.

Theres a comic sequence early in the Beatles film A Hard Days Night when the Fab Four encounter a grumpy war vet on a commuter train. I fought the war for your sort, he grumbles. Its a moment that captures the tension between two very different worlds.

Queen and Country wants to say the same thing but never quite pulls it off. The film has its moments but not enough to justify a trip to the multiplex.

Queen and Country" is not rated but would probably receive an R for nudity, sexual situations and profanity; running time 115 minutes.