Liam Neeson stars in this tense drama about the effects of terrorism
Revenge is probably one of the most common dramatic engines of all time, in all its varied forms. As such, it would seem like there couldn't be any new stories to tell about revenge no new ideas to contribute to the conversation.
And yet, year after year, season after season, revenge is a subject that filmmakers return to, and it's sort of amazing how it continues to yield results, both dramatically and thematically. Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose movie "Downfall" gave birth to that Hitler YouTube meme that keeps getting recycled (the joke getting thinner every time), was damn near swallowed by Hollywood when he made "The Invasion" with Nicole Kidman. Still, his earlier work like "Downfall" or "Das Experiment" proved he was a filmmaker of substance, and I'm glad to see he didn't let himself get sidelined very long.
"Five Minutes Of Heaven" is based on real people and a real situation, but it uses the facts as a jumping-off point in pursuit of (hopefully) a larger truth. It's an intriguing approach, and the end result is sincere, if a little flat. The most interesting thing about the film is the way it deals with revenge as a cancer, eating away at anyone infected with it. When someone does you a wrong as a result of some personal conflict, it's easy to fantasize about doing it back to them, and in some cases, that fantasy becomes reality. But when you're the victim of a stupid, random, pointless act of terrorism, revenge becomes political as well as personal, and things get complicated.
As a young man, Alistair (Liam Neeson) was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, passionate to the point of violence about "the Irish troubles." Now, decades later, he travels the world speaking about reconciliation and forgiveness. He's obviously trying to undo much of what he did as a youth, but there are some things that no amount of good work can undo. And for Joe (James Nesbitt), it doesn't matter what Alistair does now or what he says or who he helps: Alistair will always be the man who killed Joe's older brother.
[more after the jump]