Five Minutes of Heaven

Five Minutes of Heaven

Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Five Minutes of Heaven is a hypnotic drama about the power of forgiveness and the heavy weight of our pasts using the violent era of the mid 1970s in Northern Ireland as a prism through which to explore its heady themes.  Hirschbiegel, directing from a snappy, knowing script by Guy Hibbert, expertly portrays the gut-wrenching emotions and keeps the film from being a stylistic exercise.  Rather he perfectly captures deep, penetrating moments and encapsulates an era of violence in riveting detail.

Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt play two men talked into meeting for a television program.  Neeson was a young USF member who shot Nesbitt’s brother in cold blood in front of Nesbitt as a young child.   The tension of the film rises and abates expertly throughout.  First, with its introductory scene, we witness the violent incident in a near-perfect build up.  The tension slowly rises again as the meeting between the two men inches forward with unexpected results.  Will Nesbitt kill Neeson?  Is reconciliation possible?

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The Iron Lady

The second The Iron Lady was announced, Meryl Streep’s Oscar was already certified and ready to be awarded.  Streep as Margaret Thatcher, England’s first female prime minister and a controversial political figure of the Cold War era, is the kind of part that breeds Oscars and putting the most nominated actress of all time in that part is a relative sure thing.  Unfortunately, the script by Abi Morgan and direction by Phyllidia Lloyd is nowhere near as strong as it should be and all the film has is a strong central performance that feels all for naught.

It’s not necessarily the filmmakers’ fault per se.  The biopic has been a lethargic prestige genre designed to get their lead performers award recognition and little else.  It’s a sound strategy as Jamie Foxx can attest for his stirring performance in Ray.  But be honest with yourself, what do you really recall of the film?  The problem with the biopic is that it tries to take in too much of the person’s life.  A film tells a story with a beginning, a middle, and end with a central theme linking all parts taking us to the end.  Many of these biopics try to condense a whole life into those two hours not taking into account the major swings and turns that a life takes over the course of decades.  In the end, the films make simplistic statements on their subjects but there’s little depth given and ultimately, at best, you have a turgid film with an actor at its center giving it their all and then some.

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