DIR: Ian Power • WRI: Colin Murphy • PRO: John Kelleher • DOP: Cian de Buitléar • ED: Vinny Beirne • DES: Ray Ball • MUS: Stefan French • CAST: Peter Coonan, David Murray, Orla Fitzgerald, Gary Lydon, Morgan C. Jones, Jesse Morris
Rarely enough do we see Irish cinema aim for any type of self-reflection lacking the padding of time and thematic distance; accounts of Bloody Sunday and the Guildford Four crept onto our screens twenty years after the fact, and more recent exercises in navel-gazing have thrust more towards some sense of the Irish spirit or character without any contextual foundation in current events.
Not at all to our discredit, mind – it is simply that Ian Power’s The Guarantee is a beast of a different kind. Based on Colin Murphy’s stage play Guaranteed!, the film takes us through 2008’s banking collapse, a defining event still very much an open wound in the national psyche.
Spanning the lead-up to and events of the critical night on which the government agreed to prop up the ailing financial system, it is bold and relevant subject matter for which any Irish artist should be applauded for tackling. Even if, as in this case, it veers slightly wide of the mark.
From the outset, The Guarantee strives manfully to prop itself between the two stools of documentary and drama, but ends up heaped between the two. Talking heads and TV3 newsreel punctuate sterile, studio-shot tracking sequences and eerily back-lit press conferences. Headlines and frantic email exchanges flutter across the screen, as fleeting as any effort to ground the audience in human moments amidst a flurry of economic jargon and bankers so sinister they lack only cloven hooves and moustaches for the twirling.
The characterization is one of the more disappointing aspects – The Guarantee posits itself as a drama first, but for the notable exception of David Murray’s underplayed Finance Minister Brian Lenihan (and perhaps Gary Lydon’s underserved Taoiseach Brian Cowan), the cast largely melds into a parade of frowning suits blaring but one note.
An effort to render a political thriller in the tradition of All The President’s Men with the high-value gloss of The Social Network, The Guarantee ultimately fails to capture the style or substance of either. It is, however, a worthy effort to open dialogue on an issue that is as incomprehensible to the general Irish public (this reviewer included) as it is all-pervading in their day-to-day lives.
15A (See IFCO for details)