Michael Collins (film)

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Michael Collins is a 1996 historical biopic written and directed by Neil Jordan and starring Liam Neeson as General Michael Collins, the Irish patriot and revolutionary who died in the Irish Civil War. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Ireland, 1916. His dreams inspired hope. His words inspired passion. His courage forged a nation's destiny. An epic tale of passion and destiny. (taglines)

Michael Collins[edit]

He was my chief always. I would have followed him to hell if he'd asked me... And maybe I did.

Joe O'Reilly[edit]

  • You've got to think of him the way he was. The way he cycled round Dublin in his pin-striped suit with £10,000 pounds on his head. "Why hide, Joe" he'd say "when that's what they'd expect?". But he never did what anyone expected. He got the British out of here and no one expected that. Some people are what the times demand, and life without them seems impossible. But he's dead. And life is possible. He made it possible.
  • That's why he died. He knew the risk he was taking when he went down there, but he thought them worth taking. He took them for us, for every gobshite in this country, no matter what side they were on.


Opening montage: At the turn of the century, Britain was the foremost world power and the British Empire stretched over two-thirds of the globe. Despite the extent of its power, its most troublesome colony had always been the one closest to it, Ireland. For over seven hundred years, Britain's rule over Ireland had been resisted by attempts at revolution and rebellion, all of which ended in failure. Then, in 1916, a rebellion began, to be followed by a guerilla war that would change the nature of that rule forever. The mastermind behind that war was Michael Collins. His life and death defined the period, in its triumph, terror and tragedy. This is his story.
[As the IRA surrenders to the British Army at the 1916 Easter Rising, prominent leaders like James Connolly are singled out by the British officers. Michael Collins, standing in a crowd of prisoners, is visibly restless.]
Eamon de Valera: Wait, Michael, wait...
Michael Collins: Till when?
Eamon de Valera: Until the next time.
Harry Boland: What happens next time?
Michael Collins: We won't play by their rules, Harry. We'll invent our own.

Cathal Brugha: The Minister is as usual exceeding his brief!
Michael Collins: And what is my brief, Cathal?
Cathal Brugha: Intelligence.
Michael Collins: Bullshit! I'm Minister for Gun-Running, Daylight Robbery, and General Mayhem!

Harry Boland: Oh, did you hear there's a butterfly been seen in West Clare? Its wings are green, white, and yellow.
Michael Collins: Oh, God!
Harry Boland: The lads say it's a sign.
Michael Collins: Sign? My... fuck it!
Harry Boland: I'm tellin' ya.
Michael Collins: You know the problem with butterflies?
Kitty Kiernan: What's that?
Michael Collins: They only last one day.
Harry Boland: Aye, but what a day, Mick!

Eamon de Valera: If we are to negotiate as a legitimate government, our armed forces must act like a legitimate army.
Michael Collins: What, exactly, do you mean, Dev?
Eamon de Valera: I mean large scale engagements.
Michael Collins: You mean, like, in 1916? The great, heroic, ethical failure. All marchin' in step towards slaughter. Why don't we save them all the bother and blow our own brains out?!
Cathal Brugha: How dare you!
Michael Collins: How do you think we even got them to this point? Where they'll even consider talking? We brought them to their knees the only way we could!
Eamon de Valera: They call us murderers.
Michael Collins: War is murder! Sheer bloody murder! If you'd been here for the past year, you'd know that!

Eamon de Valera: You published the terms without MY agreement!
Michael Collins: They were the best we could get.
Eamon de Valera: In your opinion!
Michael Collins: And what's more, Dev, you sent me there because you knew they were best we could get.
Eamon de Valera: That is idle speculation.
Michael Collins No, it's the truth. Otherwise you'd have gone yourself. I know it doesn't give us the Republic, but it gives us freedom to achieve the Republic. Peacefully. And surely it's time for peace.
Eamon de Valera: What would you know about peace?
Michael Collins: When I agreed to go to London, you said we could negotiate on behalf of the Irish people and our government, the Dial. If they accept it, I accept it; if they reject it I reject it. And I want to know you'll do the same.

[As Collins arrives at an army barracks the British are turning over to the Irish Free State]
British officer: You're seven minutes late, Mr. Collins.
Michael Collins: You've kept us waiting seven hundred years. You can have your seven minutes.

Michael Collins: [Trying to convince the Dáil to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty] I would plead with every person here. Make me a scapegoat if you will, call me a traitor if you will, but please, let's save the country. The alternative to this treaty is a war which nobody in this gathering can even contemplate. If the price of freedom, the price of peace is the blackening of my name, I will gladly pay it.

Michael Collins: I will not fight against men I trained with, I fought with!
Dáil Member: The people have spoken, Mr. Collins, overwhelmingly in favour of the treaty you brought home!
Arthur Griffith: They've occupied the Four Courts, half of O'Connell Street, Limerick, Cork- it's anarchy out there!
Michael Collins: Better anarchy than civil war!
Arthur Griffith: We've got to do something. Churchill's offered us artillery!
Michael Collins: For Christ's sake, let Churchill do his own dirty work!
Arthur Griffith: Maybe he will, Michael. Maybe he will.

Michael Collins: For the first time in my life I'm scared.
Harry Boland: The Big Fellah, scared? I hate to tell you this, Mick, but you've got a right to be.
Michael Collins: You told me once I was good at mayhem, sheer bloody mayhem.
Harry Boland: Yeah.
Michael Collins: That's what I'm scared of because once I start... there'll be no stopping me.
Harry Boland: Don't you let it start, then. Tear up that treaty.
Michael Collins: It's the only thing we've got.
Harry Boland: So then it starts.
Michael Collins: What starts?
Harry Boland: We fight.
Michael Collins: They fight, we don't.
Harry Boland: You've said what you had to say, and you can go now, Mick.
Michael Collins: [Moves toward Boland] Listen to me, please- listen to me!
[The two struggle briefly. The door crashes open; Boland's guard has a pistol aimed at Collins]
Michael Collins: Do it, kid.
Harry Boland: Put the gun down!
Michael Collins: DO IT! Save us all a lot of bother!
[The guard hesitates, confused]
Harry Boland: [Charges and slams the guard against a bed, aiming the pistol at his back] Didn't you hear me? I said PUT THE GUN DOWN! [To Collins] Get out.

[To the Soldier who killed Harry Boland]
Michael Collins: You killed him you little uniform bit! You plugged him you little 'Free State' gobshat! You were meant to protect him.
Free State Soldier: But, he was one of them, sir-
Michael Collins: No, son! You don't understand. He was one of us.

[In a West Cork pub]
Patron: Come to flog us that bloody treaty, have you?!
Michael Collins: I'm flogging fuck all; I've come to buy! Drinks for the county on me!
Michael Collins: [To an Anti-Treaty rebel relaying his message to Eamon de Valera] Tell him... that Harry Boland's death was enough. Tell him that Mick Collins says he wants to end this bloody mayhem. Tell him I'm sorry I didn't bring back the Republic, but nobody could have! [...] He was my chief always. I would have followed him to hell if he'd asked me... And maybe I did.

Ending montage: Michael Collins was 31 when he died. Half a million people attended his funeral in Dublin. All parties to the conflict, both British and Irish, were temporarily united in grief. In his brief lifetime, he had fought the British Empire to a stalemate, negotiated the first Treaty of Independence for Ireland and overseen its transition to democracy. He died, paradoxically, in an attempt to finally remove the gun from Irish politics.


  • Ireland, 1916. His dreams inspired hope. His words inspired passion. His courage forged a nation's destiny. An epic tale of passion and destiny.
  • An epic tale of passion and destiny.


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