Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca, Mark Davison, Kevin O'Neill, Juliet Crawford, Barry McEvoy, Richard Orr, Richard Dormer, Pauline Hutton, Jonathan Harden, Emma Neill, Matthew McElhinney
Written by: Guy Hibbert
Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 89
Date: 01/19/2009
IMDB

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Irish Ayes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall, The Invasion), this talky little drama about two men not meeting is exceedingly well-written and very efficiently made, with surprisingly good mood-setters and dramatic deflections.

It begins in Northern Ireland in 1975, in the small town of Lurgan. It's a time of upheaval and the otherwise normal teen Alistair Little (Mark Davison) has joined a rebel group, the Ulster Volunteer Force. (He keeps his gun hidden in a box of his old toys.) Together with three friends, he takes on his first assignment. He shoots his target through a living room window, but leaves behind the dead man's shocked little brother Joe Griffen (Kevin O'Neill).

Years later, the two grown men, Alistair (Liam Neeson) and Joe (James Nesbitt), are being chauffeured to the set of a television show, where they are to meet for the first time, on camera. When the men arrive, an army of directors and producers and supervisors meet with them and whisper polite instructions and talk about comfort and truth. Joe bonds with a pretty young studio gofer, Vika (Anamaria Marinca), who has also met Alistair.

Joe is appalled that he is expected to shake hands with Alistair, and actually, secretly plans to kill him. When the moment comes for Joe to walk down the stairs, open the door, and take a seat beside Alistair... well, I won't give it away. We learn, through flashback, that Joe has survived a horrible life, with his mother actually blaming him for the death of his older brother. He smokes nervously and tries to act tough. Alistair has spent a lifetime mastering a set of words that tries --and fails -- to justify everything to himself. (He has a speech already written and memorized for the show; when the soundman flubs a take, he repeats the speech again.)

For a movie with so little dramatic and visual promise, Five Minutes of Heaven is amazingly intelligent, yet also visceral; you can feel the tension and sweat in almost every frame.

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