It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
He has fought for Great Britain in the streets of Belfast and on the muddy fields of the Falkland Islands, and he has seen his friends killed and maimed. So when the soldier returns to civilian life he is not pleased to find that he is no longer considered a British citizen.
He is black and was born in a former British colony. He came to London as a baby. He put his life on the line in the British army for nine years as a paratrooper. And now they tell him his passport is no good. That moment, in a government office, is the turning point in the life of Reuben, the returned soldier, played by Denzel Washington.
Until then, he has weathered the return to civilian life fairly well. Modern Britain is often more blatantly racist than America, especially on the working-class level, but Reuben is a man who tries to put racism in its place. Indeed his best friend is a white man, a fellow paratrooper whose legs were blown off while Reuben watched. He can deal with racism on the personal level. But he takes his service in the army very seriously, and when Great Britain insults his patriotism by withholding his passport, he feels he has passed some sort of fundamental divide. The action strikes at the heart of his pride.
"For Queen and Country" follows this man for a few weeks after his return to civilian life and to a bleak high-rise government tenement that is ripe with crime, drugs and disillusionment. Reuben moves into an apartment with his books and clothes and military decorations and starts looking for work - unsuccessfully. He is turned down in half a dozen different ways, most of them based on his race, and yet he is undiscouraged, because he expects such treatment and expects eventually to outsmart and outrun it and succeed in spite of it.