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For Queen and Country

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For Queen and Country 15 rating

Denzel Washington stars as a British paratrooper who returns to the London council estate of his youth, only to find his wartime service counts for nothing.

Drama 1989 101 mins

Director: Martin Stellman

Overview

An impossibly fresh-faced Denzel Washington took one of his earliest starring roles in this British feature that was way ahead of its time in depicting black urban alienation. Washington plays a British paratrooper who served in Northern Ireland and the Falklands as a way of escaping the tough London estate where he grew up. Upon returning there he encounters little respect from the locals, and much hostility from the police, who treat him much as they did as a youth. Betrayed and disillusioned, he soon drifts back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape.

While Martin Stellman’s film was unappreciated at the time, it has grown in reputation over the years, garnering influential support from critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, who acclaimed the film as “effective radical agitprop, relentless in its anger... the script, direction, and performances all [giving] it a powerful impact.” While its treatment may be somewhat unsubtle, For Queen and Country is significant outlier in the British cinema of the period, prefiguring as it does the later run of black urban crime dramas in the 2000s.