Fifty Dead Men Walking
A Northern Irish Catholic Del Boy turns undercover informer in this liberal adaptation of Martin McGartland’s autobiography.
Besieged by recession, shootings and paranoia (sound familiar?), west Belfast in the 1980s was not a great place for an innovative young man to be. When wheeler-dealer Martin (Jim Sturgess, excellent) is clocked by the IRA and the British police he agrees to infiltrate the Provos and then sing like a canary. His British handler is a Yorkshire idiot called Fergus (Ben Kingsley, in one of the worst wigs ever let out of hibernation). Together they set out to save lives by stopping bombs going off, but will Fergus always be there for Martin?
Canadian screenwriter and director Kari Skogland’s loose adaptation of the real McGartland’s autobiography has a lot to recommend it. Breezily paced, intriguingly plotted with great period detail, the film initially draws comparison to the buccaneering first half of Jim Sheridan’s predictably comparable In the Name of the Father before settling for something closer to the second half of Scorsese’s The Departed. Yes, it’s cloak and dagger time, Irish tinker–style.
Ultimately, however, Skogland’s film fails to convince – there’s something too schematic about it and the crucial romance between Martin and Lara (Nathalie Press) is unconvincing. Still, as we recoil from recent outbreaks of violence in Northern Ireland it’s an interesting enough piece of creative anthropology, one that bears comparison to Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s dissection of the Irish enigma Nothing Personal.
Selected release from Fri 10 Apr.