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The 5 best and worst films about the Troubles

Published 22/04/2015

Jack O’Connell in Troubles film ‘71
Jack O’Connell in Troubles film ‘71
James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson in a scene from Five Minutes Of Heaven
Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own, 1997

Belfast Film Festival programmer Stephen Hackett picks the best and worst movies about The Troubles.

BEST

'71

 A young and disoriented British soldier played by Jack O'Connell is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971.

Directed by Yann Demange  stars local actors Martin McCann and Richard Dormer, along with child actor Corey McKinley

The plot of '71 centres on a young British soldier who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, raw recruit Private Gary Hook (played by Jack O'Connell) battles to survive and find his way to safety through a disorientating landscape while encountering the presence of the IRA, loyalists and the Military Reaction Force.

Hunger

The film depicts the Hunger Strike in the Maze Prison in 1981 and in particular the role of the leader of the strike Bobby Sands.

Sands is played by Michael Fassbender who went on a medically-supervised diet to portray the final weeks of the 66 day hunger strike by Sands who died on May 5 1981.

The film won the Camera d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 for first-time film-makers.

It was released in 2008 and directed by Steve McQueen

Five Minutes of Heaven

Starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt this film dramatises the story Alistair Little, a UVF member, who spent 13 years in jail for killing Jim Griffin (21) from Lurgan on 29 October 1975. Jim's 11-year-old brother Joe witnessed the killing. Most of the drama takes place during an attempted reconcilliation 33 years later. Liam Neeson plays Alistair Little and James Nesbitt plays Joe Griffin.

The film won two awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival - Recipient of the World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic and the World Cinema Screenwriting Award.

The film received UK and Irish premieres in Belfast and Dublin during February 2009.

It was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and filmed in Northern Ireland.

In the Name of the Father

This 1993 film directed by Jim Sheridan deals with the events surrounding the 'Guildford Four' and the Magure family. Gerry Conlon, an unemployed young Belfast man without apparent direction in life, finds his world turned upside down when he is falsely accused of the 1974 Guildford pub bombing. Immediately branded an IRA conspirator, Conlon is coerced into a confession, along with his father. It starred Daniel Day Lewis, Pete Postlewaite, Emma Thompson and John Lynch.

Elephant

A depiction of a series of violent killings in Northern Ireland with no clue as to exactly who is responsible.

The title comes from a quote by Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty who described the Troubles as like having an elephant in your living room, getting in the way of everything - but after a while you learn to live with it.

Filmed in Belfast it was directed by Alan Clarke and stars Gary Walker, Bill Hamilton and Michael Foyle

WORST

IRA: King of Nothing

This 2006 film depicts a disgruntled I.R.A. member who becomes Ireland's biggest threat to the peace process directed by and starring Damian Chapa.

Having grown up within the Irish Republican Army (IRA)  since he was young, Bobby O'Brien feels that the modern day IRA does not have any of its weapons strength and protection power anymore. Haunted by violent memories of his mother, a fellow IRA radical, being gunned down during a skirmish in Belfast, Bobby is surprised when he realizes that many of his mates don't want to fight anymore, they just want to live normally. This infuriates Bobby as he sets out on a path and a goal to continue in the fashion of a continuity IRA. man. When his best mate, Mick, gets murdered by the son of a very powerful member of the Ulster Defense Association (UDA), a loyalist paramilitary group, Bobby loses his cool and murders the young man in an act of revenge. Bobby now is not only on the run from the IRA but the UDA and the British Intelligence as well whom want Bobby dead for a past insurrection incident in Belfast. The only person who can stop Bobby from his last assassination-attempt on a military intelligence agent is his lover from the past, Maggie, who then turns to Seamus, a retired IRA fighter who must decide whether to help Bobby or stop him.

Also stars Cian McCormack and Joe Estevez.

Blown Away

An Irish terrorist escapes from jail in Northern Ireland and goes to Boston seeking revenge on an ex-comrade who had also been a terrorist bomber but left the organisation, and now works in Boston as a bomb disposal expert. 

Released in 1994 and directed by Stephen Hopkins, it starred Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones.

The Devil's Own

This 1997 drama tells the story of a police officer who uncovers the real identity of his house-guest, an I.R.A. terrorist in hiding.

Directed by Alan J Pakula and stars Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford.

IRA man Frankie McGuire is sent to New York with a false name, Rory Devaney, and a mission to buy Stinger missiles. He is placed with the family of cop Tom O'Meara,  Surrounded by a wife and three daughters, O'Meara takes to Devaney, who in turn sees in O'Meara the benevolent father he lost to the violence at home when he was a child of eight. The problems arise when Tom begins to suspect something about Rory's identity.

A Prayer for the Dying

This 1988 film stars Mickey Rourke, Bob Hoskins and Alan Bates.

Directed by Mike Hodges it tells the story of Martin Fallon (Mickey Rourke) and two fellow IRA terrorists accidentally blow up a school bus instead of a British military vehicle. Fallon's friends escape, but he, devastated by the incident, turns his back on the Cause and escapes to London, where he hopes to find safe passage to the US. Instead, the IRA and the British police tail him, forcing him to depend on ruthless gangster Jack Meehan (Alan Bates), for a passport. 

A Belfast Story

A Belfast Story is a film which explores life after terrorism. Set in a city which has weathered hundreds of years of hatred, 30 years of bombs, and a war without winners, just victims. Colm Meaney stars as a man weary of doing right. Times are changing, car bombs are less common and terrorists find themselves out of work, but old habits die hard. And while most go quietly into the night, he must find the few who won’t comply. Haunted by his own past failures, he knows that he may only get one last chance to repeat the same mistake, and this time, the blood will be on his hands.

When a series of murders awaken dormant memories, many fear the worst. A greying assassin has stopped walking his son to school, purely precautionary. And his old comrades are also refusing to die gracefully. Someone is laying plans for the future, but first they must secure the present.

Star Neeson 'risks being seen as an IRA poster boy'  

Online Editors

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