More than a quarter-century after Hope and Glory, his enchanting, autobiographical child's-eye view of London in the Blitz, Boorman turns in a sequel-of-sorts. It's 1952 and the film-maker's alter ego, Bill Rohan (Turner), now 18, is dispatched from his family home (on a dreamily beautiful island in the Thames) for compulsory military training for the new war in the Korean Peninsula.
The rest of the film barely leaves the military barracks in the Home Counties, where Bill and his best mate, Percy (Jones), spend most of their time tormenting the obsessively officious sergeant-major Bradley (Thewlis, whose otherwise single-note performance is lent a touch of mastery in a scene where he is tricked into breaking the rules he insists are sacrosanct).
There's a sharp edge to their mischievousness that (only just) lifts it above the level of jolly jape. It's a proxy for Boorman's loathing for warmongering in general and conscription in particular as an expression of colonial and class oppression but the film-maker's never shrill about it: the film's best scenes, which have the pair teaching new recruits to type, add a satirical fizz that stops things getting too serious.
The whole thing exudes a warm, honeyed glow, particularly in those scenes where the women - Bill's mum (Cusack) and the object of his affection, Ophelia (Egerton) - seem to embody the sense of loss and social disruption that imbued the age.
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It's affectionate and whimsical and agreeably ambling. Diverting and watchable, but a lesser film than Hope and Glory.
Cast: Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant, Tamsin Egerton, Sinead Cusack, David Hayman, John Standing.
Director: John Boorman
Running time: 110 mins
Rating: M (violence, offensive language, sex scenes)
Verdict: Affectionate, whimsical and watchable.