Review: Ted 2

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DIR: Seth MacFarlane • WRI: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild  • PRO: Jason Clark, John Jacobs, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Stuber • DOP: Michael Barrett • ED: Jeff Freeman • MUS: Walter Murphy • CAST: Seth MacFarlane, Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried

 

Every comedy needs a sequel. This much is true. Regardless of how one-note the comedic premise of a movie is, a joke is a joke, and should rightly have every last granule of life strained from it to take the maximum amount of profit from those only too content to spend money on seeing it.
 

Ted is no different. Ted is a cute teddy bear that sounds like Peter Griffin who constantly has filth seeping from his furry mouth. In and of itself alone, that is the alpha and omega of Comedy, the abso-laugh. It is hilarity defined. And, surely enough, Seth McFarlane’s comedic conveyer belt of a mind doesn’t fail to let us down here as the film opens. We find our cute cuddly curmudgeon being married to the tickelingly trashy Tammy-Lynn from the first movie. Does he take the bride? ‘You betchya f**kin’ ass I do’ says Ted. He’s in a church saying that! Outrageous. He’s a teddy bear.
 
As we cut to the opening titles, we are treated to Ted in an elaborate ballroom dancing number with a flurry of human dancers. There’s no jokes or comedic mis-steps involved here, per se. Indeed, there’s barely any discernible skill on show, it’s just a standard ballroom dancing scene. But as an idea, it is show-stoppingly hilarious. Close your eyes and imagine a teddy bear ballroom dancing. If you’re not smiling, you’re an idiot.

 

Some of the comedy in this movie is so cerebral I couldn’t quite figure out when I was meant to laugh. Like in the scene where Liam Neeson makes his cameo. He’s buying cereal at the store, and is dubious about purchasing it because it’s generally considered to be made for kids. There was a joke in there somewhere (and I fully intend on paying to see the movie again so I can understand it), but I laughed anyway because I saw Liam Neeson.

 

The best running joke from the movie is a testament to McFarlane’s forensic comedic eye as he notices that a certain appendage enjoys quite a prevalence on the internet. So, any time a Google search is invoked into the narrative, the characters are invariably directed to a particular website. When you see the film you’ll understand. And, of course, nothing makes anything funnier than some casual racial stereotyping.

 

It was also refreshing to see another comedy where all the best gags were included in the trailer. The only reason I went to see this movie was so I could witness Marky Mark being saturated in bodily fluid on the big screen. He is absolutely drenched in the stuff. Thank heavens that was in the trailer.  Name one Charlie Chaplin movie that has a main character drowned in bodily fluid. You can’t. Because even Chaplin could never think to do something that funny.

 

Scenes involving weed and people being high are also inherently funny. Ted 2 is full of them and is much the better for it. Amanda Seyfried smokes bongs (that way, we know we’re meant to like her), they smoke bongs in the library, in the park. If you see a bong in movie you actually have a civic duty to laugh. At one point, the characters are forced to spend the night in a field full of pot plants –  and then they actually get stoned on the pot plants. Who does that?! However, it isn’t until Amanda Seyfreid takes out a bong that is shaped like a certain piece of male genitalia that this movie comes into its own. It simply transcends wit.

 

I have untold affection for this film. I haven’t even got the time to go into the complex plot (Ted has to prove he’s human), because the amount of sheer comic gold that’s littered throughout. Ted 2 has reinvented the comedy genre for the better.

 

And if you haven’t realized I’m being sarcastic, then you would genuinely love Ted 2.
 

Shane Hennessy

16 (See IFCO for details)
115 minutes
 
Ted 2 is released 10th July 2015
 
Ted 2 – Official Website

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Run All Night

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DIR: Jaume Collet-Serra • WRI: Brad Ingelsby • PRO: Roy Lee, Michael Tadross, Brooklyn Weaver • DOP: Martin Ruhe • DES: Sharon Seymour • Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Common

 

When Pierre Morel’s action thriller Taken was first released in cinemas back in 2008, many people were surprised to see the then-56 year old Liam Neeson taking on the role of anti-hero Bryan Mills.

While it wasn’t entirely unfamiliar territory for the Ballymena man – earlier roles in films like Rob Roy, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Batman Begins presented a physical challenge to the Academy Award nominee – it was seen as a departure for the man who has memorably brought real-life figures such as Oskar Schindler, Michael Collins and Alfred Kinsey to the big screen.

Yet, despite being filmed on a relatively meagre $25 million budget, Taken proved to be a resounding success, earning almost ten times that amount at the worldwide box office.

With two subsequent sequels proving to be even more profitable, Neeson has firmly-established himself as a bonafide action star, and although Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Silence may well find him back on prime dramatic form, he is showing no signs of turning his back on the genre that he has seemingly embraced with opening arms in recent years.

2011’s Unknown and last year’s Non-Stop had been marketed in a similar vein to Taken, and the towering Antrim-native teams up with the director of those films, Jaume Collet-Serra, in Run All Night. Taking place over the course of 16 hectic hours, Neeson plays ageing Brooklyn hitman Jimmy Conlon, who was previously a major player in the crime empire run by his best friend, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).

He is estranged from his son Michael (Joel Kinnaman), who eager to distance himself from the murky world that his father operates, and is forced to don a Santa costume as he attempts to pay off an outstanding heating bill. Michael is a now-retired boxer (and incidentally shares his name with a real-life Irish Olympic medallist in the same sport) who is employed as a limousine driver around the streets of New York City.

This is helping him (and his family) to make ends meet, but his life is thrown into chaos one night, when he crosses paths with Shawn’s son Danny (an unhinged Boyd Holbrook) and he subsequently embarks on the run with Jimmy, who has had to take matters into his own hands to protect his offspring.

What follows is fairly standard fare, as the Conlons reluctantly team together to evade the forces that gather around them – most notably Common’s bespectacled assassin – and ensure that Shawn’s lust for revenge isn’t fulfilled.

Much like the previous partnerships between director and star, Run All Night is an efficiently-produced thriller, which allows Neeson to bring a grizzled edge to a tortured character. The addition of the energetic Kinnaman (who has made his name stateside in The Killing and also assumed the lead role in 2014’s Robocop remake) make the role of Jimmy less physically-demanding that Neeson’s more recent “geriaction” exploits, and in contrast to the often cringe-inducing interplay with Maggie Grace in the Taken series, there is a refreshing lack of sentimentality in the father-son dynamic.

However, the theme of family is explored in great detail, with the widely-explored “sins of the father” cinema trope forming a major part of the film’s narrative. Indeed, if anything, it often takes itself too seriously, which may be a little off-putting for its potential audience.

When it focuses on the nuts and bolts element of the story (which also features Vincent D’Onofrio as Jimmy’s long-time NYPD adversary), it has a firm footing, and despite being overstretched at 114 minutes, it manages to maintain its momentum ahead of the blood-splattered final act.

While it isn’t the goriest film you will see this year, it resists the temptation to drop below an R-rating, a move that made the Taken sequels seem alarmingly sanitised. This does lead to some occasional misfires (there are some sexual references that look like they belong in a completely different film), but with Neeson and Harris displaying confidence in their respective roles, they register as minor complaints.

If you try to analyse Run All Night in the context of Neeson’s wider back catalogue, it becomes clear that it won’t be a film that will have a lasting effect on fans of his output. How much longer he can continue in these action roles is also up for debate, but until then, his latest offering works as perfectly serviceable entertainment.

Daire Walsh

15A (See IFCO for details)
114 minutes

Run All Night is released 6th March 2015

Run All Night – Official Website

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Taken 3

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DIR: Olivier Megaton  WRI: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen  PRO: Luc Besson  DOP: Eric Kress  Ed: Audrey Simonaud, Nicolas Trembasiewicz  Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser

 

The third and allegedly final instalment of the Luc Besson-masterminded Taken series eschews the European settings of its predecessors for Californian locations, but in all other respects feels painfully rote. Sharing with prior instalments an inexplicable fascination for the family dynamics of rugged hero Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his kin, Taken 3 tarries with sub-TV soap opera for close to half an hour before finally wheezing into action.

 

In narrative terms, the film replaces the straightforward seek-and-destroy storylines of its predecessors with a convoluted “wrong man” plot lifted straight from The Fugitive (1993). On this occasion, the Tommy Lee Jones part is taken by Forest Whitaker, turning in another dreadful performance that must surely put him neck-and-neck with Renée Zellwegger for the bleakest post-Oscar career. Meanwhile, the “surprise” villain will surprise nobody, although his identity will not be revealed here.

 

It’s not a spoiler, however, to confirm that this mystery villain is a man, because as per usual, the only women on screen are Neeson’s daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). Janssen, typecast as a frosty shrew in the first Taken film, seems ill-at-ease with her now-mellowed character, and one can’t help but search her frozen features for a flicker of relief when she exits the action feet-first early on. The Taken films have always had an Oedipal streak a mile wide, and in that respect the latest instalment does not disappoint – giving Neeson and Grace a handful of excruciating father-daughter scenes, including one in a toilet cubicle that concludes with Kim creating a diversion for her escaping father by pretending to urinate. Grace is a likable genre performer, but at 31 she seems uncomfortable playing a college student who uses her mother’s garments as security blankets.

 

Age, of course, is but a number in a Taken film, and those wondering how Neeson’s action hero is holding up at 62 will be pleased to know that he still does youthful things like jumping over police cars and listening to The XX. Neeson has always walked a fine line between the stoic and the stolid, and part of the limited appeal of the Taken series has been the oddness of seeing him in the kind of role Arnold Schwarzenegger might have passed on in 1988. Alas, oddness – as well as action – is in short supply here. A fight scene in which an antagonist brandishes a machine gun while wearing only a bathrobe and his underpants calls to mind the lunatic quality of Besson’s own films, but it’s an all-too-brief flash of conscious absurdity. Elsewhere, the film feels perilously low on ideas – climaxing with an airport set-piece that seems laughably puny compared to a similar scene in Casino Royale (2006). Neeson, and most of the rest of the cast, look like they’d rather be punching the clock.

David Turpin

12A (See IFCO for details)
108 minutes.
Taken 3
is released 9th January 2015.

Taken 3   – Official Website

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Third Person

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DIR/WRI: Paul Haggis • PRO: Paul Breuls, Paul Haggis, Michael Nozik • DOP: Gianfilippo Corticelli • ED: Jo Francis • DES: Laurence Bennett • MUS: Dario Marianelli • CAST: Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco

Cults pray on those of us who suffer from excessive feelings of disconnection and alienation. Paul Haggis, former Scientologist, wrote and directed 2004’s Crash, an Oscar-winning argument in favour of the existence of quasi-mystical ties that both connect and redeem humanity. Crash followed a group of individuals, including Matt Dillon’s glorious forehead, as they tottered across the faultlines of their various prejudices, each eventually arriving at something on the spectrum between an epiphany and just deserts. The film’s plot was contrived, its analysis of prejudice fatally unsophisticated; still, Haggis’ faith in the power of human engagement granted his characters a sort of grace. An inscrutable moral sense animated everyone, almost-but-not-quite saving them from two-dimensionality. It’s tempting to put it all down to a displacement of faith in wacky ‘religion’ to one in a Tao-flavoured personal spirituality.

Third Person is an attempted rejection of that worldview. This is by means of obfuscation, sleight-of-hand, and an oftentimes nearly incomprehensible plot. We only have three storylines to deal with, at least. A writer (Liam Neeson) is working on a book in Paris when his young lover (Olivia Wilde) visits; an ex-soap actress (Mila Kunis) battles her child’s artist father (James Franco) for custody of the boy; a shady American (Adrien Brody) tries to help Monica (Moran Atias) find her daughter in Rome’s underworld.

So far, so Magnolia – so Love Actually. The cast is obviously strong, and bits of the scenery are in Adrien Brody’s mouth at all times. Something like the same graceful inscrutability is there. Mila Kunis’ Julia is a substantial and often unsympathetic creation, and the question marks that hang over her motivations are unusual in mainstream cinema. She’s the only character whose flaws aren’t retrospectively absolved by one or other of Third Person’s plot twists, under the weight of which the film starts to groan about halfway in. The sleight of hand that is the purview of the director of ‘Hyperlink Cinema’ (Roger Ebert’s term) then starts to look like self-abuse. Even the cinematography gets noticeably sloppier as things progress – a major sign of a lack of control or of money, of a piece of cinema ‘saved in the edit.’ And Crash’s misogyny rears its balding head. “Women have the incredible gift of being able to deny any reality,” a fatherly figure tells Liam Neeson. Monica is Roma, a thief and possibly a prostitute, and, ahem, ‘feisty’ – thus an irredeemable stereotype. And the ending – if only it were a statement of disgusted protest to walk out of a film once it’s over.

Third Person isn’t as terrible as the consensus has decided, but that’s the best thing I can say about it.

Darragh McCabe

 

15A (See IFCO for details)

136 minutes

Third Person is released 14th November 2014

 

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Road

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DIR/WRI/PRO: Michael Hewitt, Dermot Lavery • ED: Andrew Tohill • DOP: Mark Garrett • DES: Steve Saklad • MUS: Mark Gordon, Richard Hill • CAST: Liam Neeson

Road racing is one of the fastest and most dangerous of all motor sports with Ireland and The Isle of Man being the only two places in the world that it is legal. Despite this, it is as popular now as it was when the infamous Dunlop brothers first appeared on the scene. Narrated by Liam Neeson, Road is a feature documentary about the Dunlop family who have dominated road racing titles since the 1970s. With humble beginnings in Ballymoney, County Antrim, brothers Joey and Robert’s foray into the sport began with a love of racing friends on the back roads of their hometown. Throughout their careers they constructed and repaired their own bikes, always close to the mechanics of the sport.

A tale of two generations – the film weaves masterfully between Michael and William, sons of Robert Dunlop – who continue the family tradition into present day. This is executed beautifully through the use of archive footage, often reconstructing shots from the past and juxtaposing them against the two young men preparing for a race.

There are some wonderful moments in this film, and terrific racing footage from every vantage point of the machine. The documentary really gets under the skin of this family and their obsession with the sport with a lovely sense of these brothers, of who they were, throughout. Despite personal histories full of tragedy, the need these young men have for the sport is evident – and it is a need – which is wrapped up in identity and family tradition. This could easily be a fan film or a family memoir, but it avoids both. A worthy topic, well told.

Tess Motherway

PG (See IFCO for details)
101 mins

Road is released on 13th June 2014

Road – Official Website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjrwABtIIvQ

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Cinema Review: Non-Stop

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DIR: Jaume Collet-Serra • WRI: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach • Ryan Engle PRO: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona, Joel Silver • DOP: Flavio Martínez Labiano • ED: Jim May • MUS: John Ottman • DES: Alec Hammond  • CAST: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o

 

In Non-Stop, Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, an Irish-American air marshal with a dark past and a drinking problem. (Standard – one wonders if it’s possible to get a career in the defensive forces without a tragic history.) While on board a long-haul New York/London flight, he receives a series of taunting texts from a mysterious stranger threatening to murder a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited in a bank account. His aggressive approach to preventing this puts him at odds with the passengers, crew, and TSA; and when the bank account is revealed to be in his own name, Marks is branded a hijacker. Stripped of his badge and gun (‘duty-free’?) and unsure who to trust, Marks must clear his name and get the passengers back on side before the real threat comes to an explosive climax.

Certain stylistic features of this film work very well. The appearance of speech bubbles on screen to show a text message is a device becoming popular since its use in such television series as Sherlock and House of Cards. Director Jaume Collet-Serra takes this further, projecting the flickering screen of a shattered phone and highlighted auto-fills as Marks types (though unfortunately for the film’s humour content, no auto-correct slip-ups), validating the use of text messages as a form of narrative delivery within a film. Similarly, the claustrophobic setting of the plane is well-captured – probably no doubt helped by Neeson’s hulking frame dominating the tiny space.

The film deals in some potentially rich themes here, too, with the gradual turn against Marks by everyone else involved with the flight. The difference between a state of hijacking and a state of emergency, and the threat to civil liberties through deference and compliance to perceived authority, is ripe for exploration. Unfortunately it’s treated with all the intelligence and subtlety as a fire extinguisher to the back of the head.

In terms of its plot, it would be unfair to call Non-Stop a Non-Starter – the initial premise is intriguing, menacing, and vaguely Hitchcockian in its ambitions. Call it ‘Strangers on a Plane.’ Yet somewhere along the line the low-key approach is completely abandoned in favour of toilet-based kung-fu, a sophisticated bomb concealed in cocaine, and television news channels streaming live onboard, asking of possible-hijacker Marks, ‘how do we know he’s NOT IRA?’ A certain suspension of disbelief is always required with any action caper, but halfway through it seems that the film is aware of this audience pre-disposition and shamelessly takes advantage.

With that in mind, those who enjoy Neeson’s latter-day action movie superstar mode will doubtless find much to enjoy here, with a number of well-choreographed fight scenes at 30,000 feet causing plenty of turbulence. Neeson is a great action star – his broad build, stern Roman features, and emotional range are perfectly suited to this genre. Along with fighting three men at once, he acts the hell out of looking at a phone, and has great chemistry with co-star Julianne Moore. He may be trying to save 150 people on board the plane, but Non-Stop takes a narrative nosedive in its third act that not even Liam Neeson can put right. The resolution to the whodunnit feels like a cheat, as does the motivation given for compromising the plane. The descent into cliché gathers so much speed that it crashes horribly close to parody; and the cheerful Hollywood ending fails to reconcile a number of loose ends about Marks’ no-doubt partially-disturbed mental state that doesn’t convince me he’ll come out the other side of this journey any better off. (Especially considering current exchange rates.)

A great mystery it’s not, and the frenzied, preposterous conclusion might be more ‘non, stop’ than ‘non-stop,’ but fans of Liam Neeson hunting, finding, and killing his man will certainly get more than enough of that. Fasten your seat-belts, it’s a bumpy ride.

Stacy Grouden

12A (See IFCO for details)
106  mins

Non-Stop is released on 28th February 2014

Non-Stop – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Lego Movie

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DIR/WRI: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller PRO: Roy Lee, Dan Lin MUS: Mark Mothersbaugh DOP: Barry Peterson, Pablo Plaisted ED: David Burrows, Chris McKay DES: Grant Freckelton, CAST: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman

 

You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.’

These words, famously stated by gatekeeper Morpheus to describe The Matrix in the iconic film from 1999, might at first appear to have little to do with The Lego Movie. How could the Wachowskis’ dystopian diatribe against the hyper-real, mass-media environment of the late 20th century have anything in common with a film which functions at its most superficial as a 100 minute advertisement for children’s brick-based playsets? Yet, some clear parallels can be observed in the story of an average man, traversing a metaphorical rabbit-hole to be told that reality as he knows it is a deceptive construction; but he is a long-promised saviour, come to fulfil the prophecy of shattering this illusion and saving the world.

The hero of The Lego Movie may even be more expressive than The Matrix’s Keanu Reeves – the yellow-faced Legoman, Emmett (Pratt), a mild-mannered construction worker. His daily routine is dictated by ‘the instructions’, a technical bible which guides him on how to fit in, make friends, and be happy. The (Lego) Matrix undeniably has him: We see it when he looks out the window to greet the day (to see every other Lego-man and woman looking out the window, greeting the day), or when he turns on his television (to watch the universally-seen sitcom, Where are my Pants?). It is a ritual-driven world, pulled over his eyes to protect him from the truth – which in this case, is that its seemingly-benevolent ruler, President Business, is secretly planning to destroy the world.

When Emmett accidentally stumbles upon a priceless relic, the key to disarming President Business’ most deadly weapon, he is mistakenly identified as ‘The Special,’ an extraordinary person heralded as the saviour who will thwart President Business. Recruited into a troupe of renegade ‘master builders,’ famous figures who play by their own rules, the overwhelmed and underprepared Emmett begins his quest through a maze of secret tunnels, other realms, and the idea that the instructions are just the beginning.

The plot is as by-the-numbers as Emmett’s instructions, but the joy of The Lego Movie is in its execution. Writer/director team Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring the same self-effacing reflexivity to The Lego Movie as we saw in their previous zany capers, 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which opens it up in a number of fairly astonishing ways for a film about Lego.  Themes of conformity vs. creativity, free will vs. fate and determinism, along with surprisingly on-point commentary about monopolist multinational corporations and the increasing specialisation of Lego playsets reducing creativity and self-determination are introduced – but, fittingly for a Lego movie, in a playful and accessible way that can always be broken down and reshaped.

Visually, the film delights in its own ‘Lego-ness,’ with intangible properties like water, smoke and fire being rendered in the small round pieces and shiny plastic familiar from Lego sets, as well as using the interlocking characteristics of its bricks to great effect. While the action is largely computer-generated, it retains the erratic energy and aesthetic of stop-motion animation which perfectly complements the film’s humour.

The Lego Movie’s cast of characters is joyously brought to life by a hilariously self-aware script and lively voice-acting. Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt brings his characteristic brand of earnest positivity and expert comic timing to our hero Emmett, a character believably out of his depth.

There are no missteps in the huge supporting cast either; Elizabeth Banks makes for a punky, articulate heroine, while Liam Neeson’s conflicted Good Cop/Bad Cop is a particular highlight, and Will Arnett’s Batman may be one of the most enjoyably self-aware portrayals of the character in recent memory. (Your move, Ben Affleck.) Alison Brie, Nick Offerman and Charlie Day capably round out the ‘who’s-who of US sitcoms’ filling out Emmett’s team as the bubbly Unikitty, mutant cyborg pirate Metalbeard, and Benny, The 1980-Something Spaceman. (Keep your ears peeled too for other famous cameos, including Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill from 21 Jump Street reprising their double act as a couple of superheroes.)

The Lego Movie, particularly in a striking third-act narrative rupture, could maybe be read as a metaphor for the state of the Lego corporation as it stands in the 21st century –as a battle between individual, creative thought and disciplined, specific model-making. But it can just as easily be seen as a hilarious caper about what happens when you stop following instructions and start having fun. Built to last, The Lego Movie could be Toy Story for the 21st century.


Stacy Grouden

G (See IFCO for details)
125  mins

The Lego Movie is released on 14th February 2014

The Lego Movie – Official Website

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – Five Minutes of Heaven

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

Five Minutes of Heaven

(Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2009)

‘… features stunning performances by two of the finest actors ever to emerge from the island of Ireland—and thus by extension, the planet Earth …’

Niall Dunne

Can a BBC-produced film directed by a German fella named Hirschbiegel be considered ‘Irish’? For the sake of this installment of the ‘We Love…’ series, let’s just say it can. Best known for the brilliant and controversial 2004 film Downfall, which dramatized the last days Hitler in Berlin, Oliver Hirschbiegel certainly did his Irish homework for 2009’s Five Minutes of Heaven, an unsentimental examination of the difficulties of forgiveness centered on the murder of a Catholic man in Lurgan during the Troubles. The film has won multiple international prizes, including the World Cinema direction and screenwriting awards at Sundance. It also features stunning performances by two of the finest actors ever to emerge from the island of Ireland—and thus by extension, the planet Earth.

Hirschbiegel based his film on the real-life experiences of Alistair Little, a former UVF hitman, and Joe Griffin, who—as a young boy in 1975—witnessed the killing of his older brother Jim at the hands of Little. Both Little, who served 13 years for the murder and now works internationally as a conflict resolution specialist, and Griffin were interviewed at length for the film, but have never met. Five Minutes imagines a rendezvous between the two men more than 30 years after the murder, and the tension the film creates in the build up to this attempted rapprochement is what makes it so special.

The film opens with a reenactment of Jim Griffin’s murder by a teenage Little and his friends. The scenes are vivid and credible, accomplished using a cast of relative unknowns. Fast-forward to 2008, and middle-aged Joe Griffin and Alistair Little—played by the very well known James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson, respectively—have agreed to meet face-to-face for the first time on a TV show exploring the possibility of reconciliation.

Nesbitt portrays Joe as a chain-smoking bundle of nerves, permanently scarred by his brother’s death, resentful of Little’s reformation and his success as a world-travelled counselor to men of violence. He plays along with the TV producers and their Oprah-inspired desires to capture ‘the truth’ about his feelings on tape. But we find out quickly enough that he’s not there to provide Little with a final act in his ‘journey towards a magnificent redemption.’ Revenge, not reconciliation, will be Joe’s five minutes of heaven.

Neeson’s Little appears to be the polar opposite of Joe: all quiet and calm and self knowing. He speaks eloquently of his past crime, his shame, and his current mission to prevent other young men from falling in with gangs and terrorist groups. And somehow he knows that Joe’s not there to make peace, but he wants to see him nonetheless—we presume in order to help Joe move on.

“Time will heal they say… what everybody says about everything. The years just get heavier.Why don’t they tell you that? Nobody tells you that!”

And so the pieces are set in play, and the tension mounts as the meeting draws closer and closer. Thanks to Hirschbiegel’s expert documentary -style direction, Guy Hibbert’s intelligent (and at times very funny) script, and the commitment of Nesbitt and Neeson to their characters, that tension never lets up either—even when it’s revealed that Little is not a tower of strength at all but a sad, broken man, consumed by guilt, and Joe’s resolve to kill him starts to break.

There are no soap opera moments in Five Minutes. When the two finally meet—alone, far away from prying eyes—the confrontation is messy and nearly devoid of catharsis. In the end, it’s a glance of unconditional love from his daughter that helps Joe start the healing process. The final moment of resolution between Griffin and Little (a three-second mobile phone call) is about as un-Oprah as you can get.

Five Minutes is an impressive achievement and certainly one of my favorite Irish films in recent memory. By focusing on the deeply human tragedies and struggles of both protagonists, it avoids getting bogged down in partisanship or political name-calling—always a danger when tackling such complex subject matter. The film is not without its flaws. For instance, the bit about Joe’s mother placing the blame entirely on him for not doing anything to save Jim on that fateful night doesn’t ring true. It’s also a little implausible that no one in the TV crew notices Joe carrying around a machete in his underpants. Ultimately, however, the amazing performances of Nesbitt and Neeson help you to forget the imperfections and drive home the point that there are no easy fixes on the road to reconciliation.

Niall Dunne

Click here for more We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film

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