It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The central image in "Brassed Off'' is that of a face: shiny, homely, dead serious. It is the face of a man who earnestly believes he is doing the most important thing in the world. The man's name is Danny, and he is the leader of a brass band made up of coal miners who work at a pit in Grimley, a Yorkshire mining town. The band was founded in 1881, and its rehearsal room is lined with the photographs of past bandmasters, looking down sternly on the current generation of musicians.
It is 1992, and the colliery is about to be closed. The Conservative government made a decision some years earlier to replace coal with nuclear power as a source of fuel, and as a result some 140 pits, representing more than 200,000 miners' jobs, were declared redundant. The closure of a pit means the death of a town, because a village like Grimley depends entirely on the wages of the miners, whose families for generations have gone down in the mines--and played in the band.
"Brassed Off'' is a film that views the survival of the town through the survival of the band, and the survival of the band through the eyes of Danny (Pete Postlethwaite), who in some corner of his mind probably believes the mines exist only to supply him with musicians. The movie makes liberal use of storytelling formulas (there is a love story involving young people, and a crisis involving a married couple, and a health crisis involving Danny, a strategic use of "Danny Boy,'' and a national band contest at the Royal Albert Hall). But Postlethwaite's performance elevates and even ennobles this material.
He loves music. He is stern and exacting about it. His band members may labor in the pits all day, but when they come to rehearsal he expects seriousness and concentration. There is a 14-town competition coming up, and then the national finals, and this year he thinks the Grimley Brass Band has a real chance. If the pit closes, it will be a last chance.