Set at the height of ‘the Troubles’, the
decades-long conflict that tore Northern Ireland apart with sporadic
outbursts of shocking violence, 50 Dead Men Walking revolves
around 22-year-old Martin McGartland, an informant within the Irish
Based on McGartland’s best-selling memoir
of the same name, the film covers the years 1987 to 1991, during which
time McGartland claims approximately 50 lives were spared as a direct
result of the intelligence he supplied to his British handlers. After
this time, his cover blown, McGartland was kidnapped and tortured by IRA
operatives, only managing to escape with his life in the most dramatic
and unlikely of fashions.
He’s been on the run ever since, though his
time in hiding has been anything but restive; at one point he was
reportedly changing location every month, and in 1999 he was shot six
times in an attack he says was perpetrated by the IRA in retaliation for
his years as an informant.
Though it received a limited theatrical
release in the UK, 50 Dead Men Walking has gone straight to video
in Australia, though as far as STV fare goes it’s top notch. Jim
Sturgess (Across the Universe) puts in a captivating, star-making
performance as the duplicitous larrikin trying to do the right thing,
and Ben Kingsley is likewise convincing, if not his usual mesmerising
self, as McGartland’s British contact. Rose MacGowan sounds like a
drug-addled leprechaun in her unlikely turn as an IRA assassinette, but
other than that the depth of talent is impressive, as is director Kari
Skogland’s thoughtful cinematography and nail-biting action sequences.
The Blu-ray release is light on extras,
with a smattering of deleted scenes the sole incentive in this regard,
but the 1080p picture and 5.1 TrueHD soundtrack are near-faultless, much
like this highly-recommended feature.