Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Fifty Dead Men Walking

Written & Directed By: Kari Skogland

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, Rose McGowan

My rating: 7/10

My expectations for this film were not particularly high; a film about Northern Ireland made by a bunch of foreigners...with big phony accents. Sounded like trouble. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. The story of Martin McGartland was well publicised by his very successful autobiography. He was a young scallywag living in Belfast, when he became a double agent going between the IRA and the British police. The most interesting thing about the film is Martin himself. His character is so personable and conflicted that you never doubt for a second that he is genuine in everything he does. He wants to save people’s lives. Sometimes it goes right, sometimes horribly wrong and his anguish and frustration is evident when things have gone badly.

The start of the film shows the Brits targeting Martin because of his happy-go-lucky nature and his seeming lack of involvement with either side of the war. He sells stolen clothes to neighbours but just wants to serve his community and stays away from the “troubles”. The way the higher powers manipulate his good nature is interesting. They convince him that he can save lives by being a turncoat. However, many of his best friends are in the IRA and, of course, things get complicated. There is no black and white in war and that’s what this film tries to get across.

Jim Sturgess is absolutely fantastic in the lead role. His accent is immaculate and he perfectly wins our hearts as the selfless, confused, McGartland. I wish I could say the same about Rose McGowan who hurricanes into the movie halfway through as super-sexy IRA operative. Her role was a total joke, her accent was plain silly and her brilliantly bad acting only works in the tongue in cheek schlocky movies she usually sticks to. Luckily her role was small.

As the story twisted and turned and built to an incredible finale I was hooked. I was really entertained by the plot and stimulated by the unbelievable complexities of Martin McGartland’s situation. The relationship between Martin and Fergus (Kingsley) was a really nice faux-father/son thing and the actors had great chemistry. Kingsley’s role had an unusual lack of scenery-chewing, but he gave the character heart and a hint of melancholy that made him instantly sympathetic.

This is an interesting story, well executed and it is worth catching Sturgess in this small film before he starts sky-rocketing to superstardom in next few years.

- Charlene Lydon 8/4/09

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