Linda Cook review: ‘Belfast’ is one of the year’s finest

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“Belfast”

I’ve seen a lot of good movies in 2021.

But I’ve seen only a few great ones. And “Belfast” is one of a handful I consider to be a masterpiece.

Kenneth Branagh, who wrote and directed this gorgeous film, tells an autobiographical coming-of-age story of Buddy (the incredible Jude Hill,) a thoughtful 9-year-old.

Buddy and his older brother (Lewis McAske) share a loving home with their spirited mother (Caitriona Balfe, “Ford v Ferrari”) and father (Jamie Dorman, “Fifty Shades of Grey”) who works in England.

He regularly sees his grandfather (Ciaran Hinds, “The Woman in Black”) and his grandmother (Judi Dench, “Skyfall.”).

The setting is 1969 – right before the war known as “The Troubles” erupted. Buddy, who is well-known and liked in his working-class neighborhood composed of both Catholics and Protestants, pretends to be a dragon-slayer. He uses a garbage-can lid and a play sword, with his imagination, to have a great time.

When real violence breaks out, the lid becomes a shield in the hands of Buddy’s mother. Cars explode. A mob throw Molotov cocktails.

Suddenly, Buddy lives in a war zone while the Protestants rage against the Catholics.

Buddy’s idyllic childhood is forever changed, and he – along with the rest of his family – must learn to live with new rules and the threat of violence.

To tell you much more wouldn’t be fair. You need to enjoy this film for yourself. I love the way Branagh provides snippets of films on television sets and in theaters with themes that parallel those in Buddy’s life (in particular, I loved his use of “High Noon.”)

It’s shot mostly in black-and-white, with a fantastic Van Morrison soundtrack, and a cast that delivers superb performances.

You won’t see many finer movies than this in 2021 or any other year.

4 stars

Running time: One hour and 37 minutes.

Rated: PG-13 for violence and foul language.

Watch the trailer here.

At Cinemark, Davenport.

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