Who can predict when enough time has passed and dust has settled for a society to comment on its most painful chapters? However, when the time is right, it makes itself known. Steve McQueen knew it when he created the wonderful masterpiece that was last year’s Bobby Sands re-telling, 'Hunger'. Canadian director Kari Skogland also knew it when she decided to retell a very different, yet equally shocking, real life story set during the height of the Troubles - that of IRA informer Martin McGartland and his book, 'Fifty Dead Men Walking'. As the recent shootings have shown, for a minority the Troubles aren't over, yet this chapter is yearning to be told.
The story is so specific that it has universal appeal, and the casting of ‘21’s Sturgess alongside Oscar winner Kingsley will ensure that audiences take note of this political action-thriller.
Set in Belfast in the 1980s, Sturgess plays McGartland, who is recruited as an IRA informer by Kingsley’s British Special Branch officer, Fergus. The two form an unlikely friendship as McGartland puts his family and life on hold, and eventually on the line, in a bid to save the lives of others. As he rises through the ranks he becomes dangerously vital to both IRA and police alike.
Opening in Canada in 1999, where McGartland is on the run, the film continues its gripping pace until the end. Narrating, Kingsley's accent is convincing as is his performance. But this is not his film. He stands aside to let Sturgess follow ‘Across the Universe’ with another pitch perfect role, no mean feat considering he is in almost every scene. Lead by Zegers, the supporting cast are exemplary.
No matter how familiar the story, the scale of the segregation, violence and hate crimes is shocking, and this CCTV-laden, brick-floored, walled-up world is captured perfectly on screen.
While there is a gritty tone to the action and dialogue, there is a strong focus on slick action sequences which lends a commercial feel to the piece. Still, 'Fifty Dead Men Walking' is certainly a film that will stand the test of time.