Feel-Good Irish Film The Flag is Saved By Impressive Cinematography and Charismatic Performances

The Flag is a film that immediately stands out as one with a hooky premise. The film follows Mick Hambridge (Pat Shortt), a feckless builder living in London who finds out that his grandfather hoisted the flag on the GPO during the 1916 Rising. Determined to prove that he’s not quite as hapless as he looks, Mick develops a hare-brained scheme to steal the flag back from a British military barracks, with the help of his friend Mouse (Moe Dunford), a former jockey who’s “shite afraid” of horses, a dogging van driver Charlie (Ruth Bradley) and his workmates, Hammer (Peter Campion) and Sod (Brian Gleeson).

On premise alone the film sounds absolutely eye-stabbingly cringy, but the result is far from terrible. Director Declan Recks and writer Eugene O’Brien (a Rooney prize-winning playwright) seem to have largely taken their cues from that most maligned of all sub genres, British feel-good films. These include Run Fat Boy Run, On a Clear Day and Made in Dagenham. The Flag adheres to the tropes that one would expect from these capers – romantic sub-plots with unlikely resolutions, coincidences that bring to mind Camus’ concept of the absurd and foreshadowing so heavy it induces a Vitamin D deficiency.

The Flag -HeadStuff.org
Pat Shortt as Mick Hambridge in ‘The Flag.’

Still, to complain about the plot being formulaic seems largely beside the point. It exists purely so Recks and O’Brien can zip between set pieces that are at worst bland and at best mildly entertaining. Pat Shortt is well suited to carrying the film, and his charismatic performance makes you hope that he might get to carry something with a bit more weight to it in the near future. I was personally taken aback by how good Cathal Watters’ cinematography was in particular, and his contribution is just a testament to the amount of talent that exists in Irish film-making at the moment.

If one big criticism could be made about The Flag, it’s that there’s a steadfast indifference to major elements of its own plot. To my knowledge, The Flag is the only Irish film to evoke 1916 in the centenary year, and merely using it as a plot instigator feels like a wasted opportunity. Admittedly you’d have to be serious indeed to allow that to spoil your enjoyment of the film, and perhaps it’s to be somewhat expected from RTÉ (who produced the film), who at this point are known for their refusal to engage with contemporary Irish life.

Ultimately The Flag will probably end up being the type of film you’ll comfortably settle down to on Stephens’ Day, when you’re hungover and unsure of what exactly it is you’re doing with life. All things considered, that’s not a bad result.

The Flag is in Irish cinemas on October 14th. View the trailer below.

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