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For Queen and Country (1988)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of For Queen and Country (1988)
35mm, colour, 106 mins
DirectorMartin Stellman
ProductionZenith Productions
CompaniesAtlantic Entertainment Group
 Working Title Films
ProducerTim Bevan
ScreenplayMartin Stellman
 Trix Worrell
PhotographyRichard Greatrex
MusicMichael Kamen

Cast: Denzel Washington (Reuben); Dorian Healy ('Fish'); Sean Chapman (Bob Harper); Amanda Redman (Stacey); Stella Gonet (Debbie)

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Reuben, a young black soldier, returns to his council flat in London after fighting in the Falklands war. He and his best friend, Fish, find themselves facing unemployment, poverty and powerlessness, while local tensions threaten to explode in violence.

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For Queen and Country was one of a wave of directorial debuts by scriptwriters in the heady days of the mid-1980s British film boom. Martin Stellman had previously collaborated on the scripts for Quadrophenia (d. Franc Roddam, 1979) and Babylon (d. Franco Rosso, 1980). But it was his successful thriller Defence of the Realm (d. David Drury, 1985) that won him the backing of then-fledgling production company Working Title for his first directorial project.

Stellman had been disappointed with Defence of the Realm, considering it 'polite' and 'cool', and blaming David Puttnam's influence. With For Queen and Country, he was determined to make a harder-edged piece. He worked on the script with Trix Worrell, who at the time was studying at the National Film and Television School and who was, like the protagonist Reuben, an ex-soldier born in St Lucia.

Stellman and Worrell clearly had Tottenham's Broadwater Farm riots of 1985 in mind as they wrote. Making Reuben a Falklands veteran offered another layer of cruel irony to their class-war parable; Reuben's efforts as a soldier help keep in power the very government which robs him of his citizenship (via the 1981 British Nationality Act), and which represents interests detrimental to his own.

"This is war," says Rueben's friend Lynford - but not the kind of war Reuben has been trained for. A council estate in London offers nothing so clear as the distinction between 'Argies' and 'Paras'. Loyalties are splintered; identities are slippery. Yuppie criminal Colin does business with the police; easy-going Lynford ends up a killer. Ex-army, ex-British Rueben - doubly bereft of allegiance - is adrift in what he had considered his own society. His loyalty to best friend Fish is ferocious because it exists in a vacuum; there is nothing else left to be loyal to.

Keith Shuaib

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Video Clips
1. Return home (3:35)
2. Stand-off (5:54)
3. A proposition (2:11)
Production stills
Bevan, Tim (1958-)
Powell, Sandy (1961-)
Worrell, Trix (1960-)
Working Title Films