50 Dead Men Walking
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Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess) was a fly-by-night, door-to-door salesman in Belfast in the 80s. He is bonded with mates such as Sean (Kevin Zegers) among others and they manage to get into all manner of trouble until they are united with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) to defeat the British: of note at the end of the film, the British were in Ireland as occupiers for a total of 38 years, ending only in 2008 with a peace treaty! Martin feels a sense of duty with the IRA and is observed by the British intelligence, namely one Fergus (Sir Ben Kingsley) who convinces Martin to join forces as a 'tout' or informer within the IRA. It is this play of double lives that brings McGartland to a terrifying life, a life made whole only by his love for his girlfriend Lara (Natalie Press) and their children (born and unborn). The struggle Martin endures between loyalty to his mates and loyalty to the British who see Martin's role as one that could save the lives of at least '50 Dead Men Walking' is the line of the film that never lets up for a moment of rest in its demonstration of the futility of 'war', no matter what level.
Jim Sturgess is superb as Martin and the large supporting cast is as fine as any casting director could find. This is a very intense film, a film so true to the Irish brogue that subtitles are necessary to understand much of the story. It is a film well worth viewing, especially if the confusion about the long Irish/British war is not clearly understood by the viewer. Grady Harp, January 10
50DMW was enjoyable on some fronts, especially Kingsley's acting and some great moments in the script, but I just couldn't buy Sturgess as Martin. He never made me feel for him one way or the other, I saw no real motivation for selling his friends out, and he just didn't seem at all believable.
Skogland's directing is solid, as is the script for the most part, but the occasionally brutal violence and tortures left me disliking both sides of the conflict equally. If Sturgess had been more sympathetic this film would have worked so much better for me. But maybe that's the point: he was what he was, neither good nor bad (or very bad, if you're pro-IRA).
I don't know enough about the "Troubles" to say who's right or wrong. My heart tends to side with home rule, but when one looks at all the innocent people dead on both sides it adds up to nobody being right. This movie could have made me feel so much more but Sturgess just seems on the fence in every way throughout, and by the end I was happy to see it all end, leaving me feeling that nothing had really been accomplished but more pain and death, despite the claim he saved 50 lives.
He sure didn't come off as much of a hero here, and ultimately all the violence just felt pointless. The film raises many questions and answers none, which may be the point. But I didn't feel like I learned much, or enjoyed it much, and without one or the other I can't say I loved any film, no matter how competent it may be. I did enjoy some of the supporting acting a fair bit, in any case, and Kingsley is excellent as always.
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