Wednesday, February 3, 2010

50 Dead Men Walking

Intro: I loved this film. And not just because my very dear friend Kris Edlund is in it. She totally rocked, by the way, and yes, I have already asked her for all the juiciness on Jim Sturgess, who is "an absolute sweetheart". You could tell by looking at him that this would be true. Anyway, I digress. After having lived in Ireland for 3 years, 50 Dead Men Walking filled in many of the gaps in my "outsider" knowledge of Northern Irish history. It was well made, well told, and of course, very well cast.

50 Dead Men Walking, staring the beautiful and talented Jim Sturgess, unravels the story of Martin, an IRA Volunteer turned British Army informant during the ongoing "troubles" of late 1980's Belfast.

Right from go the audience knows this double-lifestyle is not going to work out well for Martin. Borrowing from the flashback narrative structure of several other famous Irish fight-the-system films such as The General and Veronica Guerin, Martin is bloodied in a hail of bullets during the first 2 mins of the film. We are transported back through time, after a fade to black, to the police state known as Belfast during the troubles. Martin, an industrious young lad is recruited by the British for his street survival instincts and access to the community at large. He quickly becomes a trusted volunteer of the Irish Republican Army before he is double crossed by MI-5 and must leave his girlfriend and small child behind to believe he has been killed in IRA retribution.
Sounds like a rusty old recycled action/thriller plot, and in many ways it is...but what makes this different and intriguing, is that its all true. A highly disturbing yet matter-of-fact portrayal of life inside the communities of Belfast during a time of suppression, oppression, revolution and counter-revolution, 50 Dead Men Walking weaves a gloriously gritty and simultaneously warm story of love and survival, heroism and betrayal. Ben Kingsley, who plays the British agent who recruits and advises Martin, is brilliant as the haggard and war weary Londoner.
I want to say, Jim Sturgess is the next big thing. I have now seen him play a Liverpool lad in Across the Universe, an American in 21, and a Northern Irishmen with a perfect Belfast accent. He is an amazing actor and I fully expect to see him pursue many more challenging roles.
For all of its violence, and despite the fact that the filmmakers ruined the ending by placing it at the beginning, 50 Dead Men Walking is film worth seeing, especially if you have any interest in Irish History, or you are in love with Jim Sturgess!

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