Fifty Dead Men Walking
dir-scr Kari Skogland
with Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, Kevin Zegers, Nathalie Press, Rose McGowan, Tom Collins, William Houston, Michael McElhatton, Laura Hughes, Gerard Jordan, David Pearse, Joe Doyle
release UK 10.Apr.09
08/Ireland 1h57

Fifty Dead Men Walking
In league with the enemy: Sturgess and Kingsley

zegers press mcgowan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Fifty Dead Men Walking The harrowing true story of a man caught in an impossible situation, this film gives intriguing insight into the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But as a movie, it's a bit hard to grab onto.

In late-1980s Belfast, Martin McGartland (Sturgess) is lively young man who isn't afraid of anyone--neither the IRA heavies nor the British cops. And pretty soon he finds himself working for both of them, inching his way up the ranks within the IRA while passing information to his Special Branch handler (Kingsley) to avert terrorist murders. His trigger-happy IRA-member best friend (Zegers) has no idea what's up, but Martin's girlfriend (Press) begins to suspect something. And if his IRA boss (Collins) figures it out, it'll get unthinkably horrific.

Filmmaker Skogland keeps the film intensely violent from the opening scene, which is set in Canada in 1999. This fragmented approach continues from start to finish, with an array of story threads including romance, friendships, action, torture and criminal mayhem. While it's all powerfully portrayed, it never quite gels together. But the intensity of the directing and editing is both riveting and hard to watch due to the sheer viciousness of what we see on screen.

Martin is surrounded by brutal thugs on all sides, both terrorists and cops. And he's a hot-headed brute himself, which makes the role a serious challenge for Sturgess. This is quite a departure from his usual affably bland characters. Kingsley invests his usual magnetic steeliness, while the side roles give solid actors like Zegers, Press and McGowan some terrific scenes to play. All of these characters flesh out Martin's odyssey in intriguing ways.

But there's an awful lot going on here, and a lot of people to keep track of. Kingsley's narration and frequent on-screen captions help steer us in the right direction. But the film is so fast and complicated that the best way to enjoy it is to just hold on for the ride as the anecdotal structure keeps pushing Martin deeper into trouble as the danger levels rise exponentially. And a couple of big plot gaps along the way only make us want to fill in the whole story by reading Martin's book of the same name.

cert 15 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality 21.Jan.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Fifty Dead Men Walking Steve, London: 1/5 "I read the book only last week, then went to see the film. The book was hard to put down, great story. The film, however, was a BIG let down. Someone missed out here!" (21.Apr.09)
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall