Belfast hoodlum Martin (Jim Sturgess) is recruited by a British agent (Ben Kingsley) to infiltrate the IRA during the height of the Northern Irish conflict and quickly becomes embroiled in a dangerous game that could cost him his life if his secret is found out. As other informers are brutally murdered, Martin starts to look for a way out, but his handler urges him to stay undercover in this taut action packed thriller based on a true story.
In her nerve-jangling adaptation of Martin McGartland's memoir, director Kari Skogland takes the politics out of an inherently political scenario. As Martin, Jim Sturgess (21
) affects a convincing accent as a "Catholic hood selling stolen goods" in Belfast in 1988. When the British Special Branch catches Martin in the act and coerces him to inform on the Irish Republican Army in lieu of jail time, he takes the bait, knowing full well the army will kill him if they find out. Once his girlfriend, Lara (Natalie Press), becomes pregnant, the income the British provide becomes more necessary than ever. Further, Martin's sympathetic handler, Fergus (Ben Kingsley in fine form), turns out to be even more of an ally than his best mate, Sean (Kevin Zegers). During Martin's days with the IRA, he also meets the flame-haired Grace (Rose McGowan in an underwritten role), who offers him a vision of a different life. The title refers to the belief that Martin's intelligence saved the lives of 50 potential targets, though the film suggests he acted more out of self-interest than a sense of duty. It's also hard to imagine that anyone raised in Northern Ireland could remain so resolutely apolitical--but it isn't inconceivable either. The real-life informer survived where many others did not, though he's been living under an assumed name since. Extras include deleted scenes, 30 minutes of fairly unilluminating B-roll (unused) footage, and commentary from Skogland, who states, "Ultimately, this movie is not a political story; this is a human drama." --Kathleen C. Fennessy