Ah Jamie. Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. I’ll admit I didn’t pay much attention to your sex God prowess before. This was because I have a fear of badly written books and from all accounts the literatzi placed Fifty Shades of Grey firmly in the excruciating category. But by God, after watching The Siege of Jadotville, I might just have to become a fan.
This week, the Savoy Cinema in Dublin offered a treat for all the senses with its special Netflix Screening of The Siege of Jadotville, a story of 150 Irish UN peacekeeping troops drafted out to the Congo in the 1961. Here they faced an unexpected battle against 3000 opposing forces with little armour and basic rations.
I knew little of the history behind the film and with the poster depicting a typical war movie image – I wasn’t too hyped. But this – is brilliant.
It’s a long time since I’ve sat in the cinema, glued to the screen. And not just because Jamie Dornan was appearing in all forty foot gloriness. The film is shot in such a way as to grab your attention from the very get go. It has all the action scenes you might expect from a Hollywood blockbuster, but it has so much more. It felt real. It was real. The people who were actually there, fighting in the event itself, were sitting in the audience with us. And their families. And with claps, cheers and standing ovations, it was hard not to swept away by the emotion of it all.
The film is based on a book by Declan Power, The Siege at Jatotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle. published by Maverick House. Declan lectured me back in university and at the time presented many’s an army related story for us to dissect. I know nothing of army speak or tactics, but I learned a lot from watching this realistic and gritty screening. Sometimes our soldiers are only pawns on the ground. Sometimes they are left to die, just because.
This movie combines all the action scenes you could expect from any decent war film, with a good script and storyline – the peace keepers are attacked over and over again, leaving you with your hands over your eyes, for the majority of the movie. You also have the political background and the history, which gives you an unexpected insight into how countries will go to war over resources and present realities in very different, politically spun ways. And you have the eye candy (as mentioned above).
Afterwards there was a questions and answers session with the director, screenwriter and producer of the film. They spoke of how they were delighted to be able to bring this story to screen, to give the peacekeepers the recognition they deserved and to tell the true story of what really happened. It’s shocking to think that the soldiers on return to Ireland were denigrated and treated as cowards.
Jamie was there too and refuted interviewer Dave Fanning’s declaration of his sex God status. “I don’t see myself as that,” he said. Oh Jamie, you big modest ride you. All sexual admiration aside, he’s brilliant in this as Commandant Pat Quinlan and I particularly liked that the film portrayed his character as not being a respected leader at the start of the story, but showing his talent and courage to prove everyone wrong, throughout.
As if the night wasn’t emotional enough, things became even more poignant when the members of A Company 35th Infantry Battalion were invited onto stage after the questions and answers finished. They slowly made their way down to the front, older now, white hair shining under the spotlights, and stood for rapturous applause, donning their light blue UN caps. It felt as though we were part of a historical moment, when a wrong has been righted, a truth revealed, justice being served.
It’ll stay with us for a long time.
On the way out, I met Declan Power and congratulated him on the success of the book. He said he remembered me from college and recognised my face – but I know that’s because I was always moaning and muttering about ‘why do we have to study army articles?’
Well now I know why.
It can take time. But the truth will always come out. And sometimes, the truth, is stranger and more fascinating than fiction could ever try to be.
The Siege at Jadotville screens across Irish cinemas this weekend on limited release and will be available on Netflix from October 7th.