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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 42.11%
Average: 5.26%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 5.26%

1 review, 13 user ratings

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In the Name of the Father
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by MP Bartley

"Justice goes Boom."
4 stars

The Troubles have probably been the longest-running sore in British history and inevitably a great deal of films have been made about it from the great and even-handed - The Wind That Shakes The Barley or Bloody Sunday - to the misjudged, false and cackhanded - Michael Collins. Jim Sheridan's focus on one group of innocents caught up in the fight between the IRA and the British mainland falls firmly into the former category.

Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a layabout and casual thief from Belfast sent to London by his father, Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite) to earn a decent living and keep out of trouble from the local IRA members who don't take kindly to thieves on their patch. With his best friend, Paul (John Lynch) for company, he soon falls in with a bunch of squatters, some of whom view any Irish with suspicion, as the IRA bombing campaign regularly rocks the London streets. One such bomb wipes out a pub in Guildford, killing many inside; and Gerry, John, and two others are quickly fingered for the crime, fitted up, subjected to mental and physical abuse by the police and sent down for the best part of the rest of their lives. Furthermore, Gerry's family is targeted by the police as the suppliers for the bomb with the result that Giuseppe is sent to prison alongside his son - all this is backstory told to lawyer Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson) who takes on the case of
the Guildford Four and the Conlon family to get them freed and pardoned.

The trap that most films about this most contentious of issues and times fall into is trying to boil hundreds of years of history into a simplistic black and white conflict - the IRA as heroic freedom fighters while the British are evil conquerors, whilst the truth is somewhere inbetween. Refreshingly, Sheridan skirts around these representations and instead paints a distressing picture of the human pain caught up in it. The British police that lead the inquiry into the bombings are corrupt and completely self-serving, but the IRA aren't shown as much better. They hover like a spectre on the fringes of the film, spoken about in hushed, fearful whispers as even Irish people who disagree with them end up dead or disappeared off the face of the earth. Even when an IRA kingpin steps forward to claim responsibility for the bombing, he's not exactly painted in the strokes of a white knight riding to the rescue. Instead, he becomes the man behind the single most shocking moment in the film, an execution carried out in the prison holding the Conlons, in a sequence that quivers with sick, fearful tension in the pit of your stomach before exploding into gut-wrenching violence. It's entirely appropriate that this sequence takes place against the backdrop of a certain Francis Ford Coppola showing in the prison, bringing to mind as it does Michael Corleone and a gun in the bathroom.

Both sides are culpable for the Conlon's situation and Sheridan is astute enough to realise that as much as the Irish family were persecuted, there was plenty of innocent English blood flowing in the streets as well and remains remarkably even-handed throughout. The Conlon's situation becomes a terrifying road of coercion, torture and doors of escape and justice firmly slammed in their faces. Even in prison amongst other criminals, their nationality is used against them and they're abandoned to their fate. It's a situation full of the anguish of the innocent being set up for something they didn't do and Sheridan's film, for all its political measurement, doesn't hold back on its righteous fury at the Conlon's situation. It itches and shakes with anger and Sheridan funnels it expertly and fluidly, never becoming mawkish or sensationalist, keeping a human centre to it all times.

Of course, that human centre focuses on the performances of both Day-Lewis and Postlethwaite and both are terrific. Day-Lewis, as ever, just completely disappears into the character of Gerry and inhabits him from devil-may-care thief to jaded prison lag with ease. Postlethwaite matches him scene for scene and gives us more proof of what has been robbed from us with his recent passing. Giuseppe is full of wisdom, resignation, love for his son, disappointment in him and despair at the situation that has swallowed his family whole. The only time the film ever strikes a false note is a confrontation between the two when they're first imprisoned. It's nothing more than an excuse for the two to thesp off against each other, but it's not needed. Day-Lewis is...well, magnificent throughout, and Postlethwaite gets his moment that makes you hold your breath in awe when the man responsible for the bombing confesses to him. Reacting in a way you're probably not
expecting, a thousand different emotions passes over his face at this news and Postlethwaite gives you the kind of moment that you'll want to rewatch by itself over and over again.

Emma Thompson has a hard job elbowing these two aside to make an impression as the lawyer coming to their rescue and she only really gets the last third of the film to make an impact. If anything, the film doesn't really have the time to explore her character the way she deserves, the reasons for her aiding the Conlons never really explored fully and she's simply reduced to an angel coming to them at their bleakest hour. Thompson's fine in the role, but aside from one moment where she has to keep herself from jumping cartwheels at the discovery of a vital piece of evidence, there's not enough meat on Peirce's character for her to really get her teeth into.

These are but minor flaws in a major piece of work, however. Strident and passionate, keenly intelligent but deeply humane it's a powerful and undeniably affecting work. The final scenes may come straight out of the Hollywood textbook, but just as the Conlons deserve their justice, the film earns and deserves to have such a cathartic release.

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originally posted: 07/04/11 18:04:03
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User Comments

3/19/12 Quigley One of the best crime films ever made. Amazingly underrated. 5 stars
7/05/10 mr.mike I give it a mild thumbs-up. 4 stars
2/10/06 Vic one of the best....great soundtrack truly moving 5 stars
10/24/04 UMER a truly fabulous movie with superb performance of day-lewis 5 stars
3/16/04 elizaveta superb film with lessons we should all keep in mind *cough* guantanamo bay 5 stars
8/09/03 Morgan It is an awesome movie of a tragic event 5 stars
4/24/03 GWB very boring 1 stars
4/19/03 Reality TV Neh. Not bad , just typical. Day-Lewis is a tad overrated, imo 3 stars
4/18/03 654 IN MY TOP 10. WHERE'S THE REVIEW? 5 stars
4/07/03 Shadaan Felfeli why can't they make more films like this. Performances are brilliant. WATCH IT !!! 5 stars
2/06/03 Blabity blah Moving!!! Great cast, great script. It made you truly care for these characters. 5 stars
12/16/02 Buddha Brace yourself. This one's a bone rattler. 5 stars
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  29-Dec-1993 (R)


  03-Mar-1994 (M)

Directed by
  Jim Sheridan

Written by
  Jim Sheridan
  Terry George

  Daniel Day-Lewis
  Emma Thompson
  Pete Postlethwaite

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