THE IRA ON FILM AND TELEVISION, by Mark Connelly, McFarland, 273 pp., $55 ( $20.99 Kindle).
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) has for decades pursued the goal of unifying its homeland into a single sovereign nation, ending British rule in Northern Ireland. On film, the IRA has appeared in mainstream motion pictures such as The Quiet Man, action films like Blown Away, political dramas, dark comedies, and even a spaghetti Western, A Fistful of Dynamite. The IRA has been explored by major directors from three countries, including John Ford (The Informer), John Frankenheimer (Ronin), Carol Reed (Odd Man Out), David Lean (Ryan’s Daughter), Neil Jordan (Michael Collins), and Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father). IRA characters have been portrayed by international stars, such as Victor McLaglen, James Cagney, Anthony Hopkins, James Mason, Richard Gere, and Brad Pitt. Films about the Irish Republican Army range from realistic docudramas like Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday, shot with handheld cameras and natural lighting to create the sensation of watching 1972 newsreel footage, to Joseph Merhi’s action farce Riot in which a British superhero battles IRA bikers in the streets of Los Angeles during a race riot.
Whether portrayed as a heroic patriot, ruthless terrorist, or troubled anti-hero, the Irish rebel has emerged as a universally recognized cinematic archetype. Over eighty motion pictures include IRA references, and IRA characters have appeared in iconic American television series such as Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, and Law and Order.
This illustrated history analyzes film depictions of the IRA from the 1916 Easter Rising to the peace process of the 1990s. Topics include America’s role in creating both the IRA and its cinematic image, the organization’s brief association with the Nazis, the changing depiction of women in IRA films, and critical reception of IRA films in Ireland, Britain, and the United States.