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    Five Minutes of Heaven

    Far from 'Heaven

    Excellent acting is undermined by sub-standard storytelling in the latest film to examine Northern Ireland's troubled past.


    Northern Ireland is a breeding ground for conflict, the stuff great dramas are made of. Take any interpersonal clash, set it in Northern Ireland to be fertilized by the religious and national tensions, and watch it grow.

    Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel.
    Produced by: Eoin O'Callaghan, Stephen Wright.
    Written by: Guy Hibbert.
    Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca, Mark David, Niamh Cusack, Paul Garret.
    Cinematography: Ruairi O'Brien.
    Edited by: Hans Funck.
    Production design by: Mark Lowry.
    Art direction by: Gillian Devenney.
    Costumes by: Maggie Donnelly.

    Related links: Official site
    "Five Minutes of Heaven" comes out of the gate with 16-year old Alistair Little (Mark Davison) on a mission to be blooded, to prove that he can kill a Catholic. Davison is a remarkable young incarnation of a young Liam Neeson, who plays the 2008 version of Little. The likeness is simply uncanny, from the shape of his nose to the line of his stance. The intense reenactment of this real-life 1975 murder gives us a fast-paced, hair-raising start, before we are thrown into the present where we must deal with the past.

    Five Minutes of Heaven  
    The writer (Guy Hibbert) uses this actual event as a platform for a fictional meeting of two men: the killer, after having spent 12 years in prison, and the victim's brother, Joe Griffin (James Nesbitt) who watched the gruesome assassination take place. By the screenwriter's own admission, we must then watch a healing process that is largely internal (or in Little's case, mostly off-screen), and this is unfortunately much less interesting to watch.

    The exception to the tedium of the inner struggle is the bloody brawl that finally releases Joe's hatred and pent-up fury. The fight is gritty and ugly, full of years of frustration and angst, and it is extraordinarily well directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.

      Five Minutes of Heaven
    The entire cast shines, Nesbitt as Joe Griffin most luminously, Neeson as ever, and Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca as Vika is delightful. The plot, while threatening to be an intense, politically-charged drama, does not ultimately sustain itself, and I believe the story's "message," which is a universal one, gets lost. Liam Neeson touches on it briefly toward the close of the film, but somehow it gets submerged, much like the inherent drama of the story.

    Great acting, good story, less than stellar storytelling.

    SEPTEMBER 2, 2009

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