Pin It
Favorite

50 Dead Men Walking 

An Irish Catholic in '80s Belfast walks the line between the IRA and the British police

click to enlarge art14560.jpg

"The price of a conscience is death,” a British police agent named Fergus (played by Ben Kingsley) tells Martin McGartland, an Irish Catholic in Belfast in the late ’80s. Loosely based on McGartland’s autobiography of the same name, the film follows his life from age 22, when he finds himself caught between impossible choices, recruited by both the Irish Republican Army and the British police who want him to spy on the IRA.

In the end, McGartland tries to walk between the two worlds, not accepting the moral code of either, and trying to find his own path in a time and place of life-and-death stakes. (The title refers to the number of people whose deaths were reportedly prevented because of McGartland’s tips to the British.)

From the beginning, it’s easy to empathize with McGartland’s plight, which presents no easy answers, and Jim Sturgess’ strong performance reveals a man under great pressure, trying to lead a normal life with wife and kids while navigating the minefield of Northern Ireland. “You got to expect a bit of killing and a bit of dying in a revolution,” a friend tells McGartland, who isn’t interested in either.

The film doesn’t explore the politics — who’s right and who’s wrong. Instead it’s an action-packed thriller with rock music, shoot-outs, explosives and more than one chase scene. A few caveats, though: The Irish brogue is at times so strong as to be nearly incomprehensible. And while the cinematography is generally serviceable, there are two extended montages that can only be described as corny and amateurish. The squeamish should also be warned that the film includes a heavy helping of violence, including more than one scene of torture.

But it is the tension — doom and violence lurk everywhere — and McGartland’s dilemma — how to survive war and retain your humanity — that make 50 Dead Men Walking a compelling film. While decisions of conscience aren’t always freighted with the specter of death, they are decisions we all face, and we can’t help considering them as we watch McGartland run for his life.

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Swing and a Miss
  • Swing and a Miss

    Hands of Stone can't carve out a distinctive space among boxing biopics
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Texas Heat
  • Texas Heat

    Hell or High Water is the crime drama you've been waiting all summer for
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Gun Show
  • Gun Show

    Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are armed and dangerous in the true story War Dogs
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Minus the Bear, This Will Destroy You

Minus the Bear, This Will Destroy You @ Knitting Factory

Sun., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Jacob H. Fries

Most Commented On

  • Still Celebrating

    Boy George and Culture Club paved the way for genre- and gender-bending rock stars
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Behind the Music
  • Behind the Music

    The Grammy Awards are about much more than what you see on TV
    • Feb 11, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation