Thursday, December 27, 2012

"50 Dead Men Walking" with Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess (2008)

Between 1968 and 1988 there were two factions; actually illegal armies; vying for control of Northern Ireland. The hatred and violence ran so deep that there was no way to contain it except to maintain the separation of the country into northern and southern provinces. One was Irish Catholic and deeply opposed to the British occupation bought on by the violence between themselves and the Protestants. Much of the discord between the two stemmed not from their religious beliefs, but more accurately was due to their competition economically and politically. At the time the IRA was the biggest terrorist organization in the country, and this movie is based on a true case. It is, in a way, chilling. It shows the ease with which people can be divided by forces that have agendas of their own, and how hard it is to break free of their bonds, even if you have helped them to shackle you in the first place. This is the dilemma in which a low level street hustler named Martin McGartland, played by Jim Sturgess, finds himself.

A nameless British agent, played coldly by Ben Kingsley, convinces Martin that he can help with the problems in Ireland by infiltrating the IRA. At the time, Martin is selling stolen goods door to door, and the offer of a free car; not to mention real money; is too much for him to resist. Consequently, his role in organizations rise, but he begins to question his own motives. Caught between the motivations of both his British “handler”, and his IRA “colleagues”, he is increasingly confused as to his own loyalties. And, with a pregnant girlfriend, he needs to start thinking beyond the divisions in order to support his new family.
Tautly directed by  Kari Skogland the film is eerily reminiscent of the dilemma faced by James Mason’s character in Carol Reed’s 1947 film, “Odd Man Out.”  The Irish “troubles” date way back; even prior to the events of 1916. This film focuses solely on the violence, and the struggle to contain it, which was waged during the 1980’s. It is a sorrowful look at man’s inability to get along with his fellow, and as such, deserves to be looked at with a keen eye. It is only by an understanding of what went wrong that we can prevent it from happening again. Outstanding performances by all make this thriller a “keeper.” 

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