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Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

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The story of former UVF member Alistair Little. Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen's brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.


8 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Young Alistair - 1975 (as Mark Davison)
Diarmuid Noyes ...
Andy - 1975
Alistair's Mum - 1975
Mathew McElhinney ...
Stuart - 1975
Dave - 1975
Alistair's Dad - 1975
Kevin O'Neill ...
Young Joe - 1975
Jim - 1975
Paula McFetridge ...
Joe's Mum - 1975
Gerry Doherty ...
Joe's Dad - 1975
Luke O'Reilly ...
Brother Dan - 1975
Luke McEvoy ...
Brother John - 1975
Aoibheann Biddle ...
Sister 1 - 1975
Ruth Matthewson ...
Sister 2 - 1975
Susan - 1975


In February, 1975, in Northern Ireland, seventeen year-old UVF member Alistair Little kills the catholic Jimmy Griffin in his house in Lurgan in front of his younger brother Joe Griffin. Alistair is arrested and imprisoned for twelve years while Joe is blamed by his mother for not saving his brother. Thirty-three years later, a TV promotes the meeting of Alistair and Joe in a house in River Finn, expecting the truth and the reconciliation of the murderer and the victim who actually seeks five minutes of heaven. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


To face the future, they must face the past.


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

27 February 2009 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Cinco minutos de gloria  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,364, 21 August 2009, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$13,217, 30 August 2009
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


| (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The little boy he delivers the note from Liam Neeson's character was named "Liam." See more »


Little's photograph of Griffin's family changes between shots. In some scenes it has a border and in others it doesn't. See more »


[first lines]
Young Alistair - 1975: [narrating] For me to talk about the man I have become, you need to know about the man I was. I was 14 when I joined the Tartan gangs, and I was 15 when I joined the UVF, the Ulster Volunteer Force. At that time, don't forget, there were riots on the streets every week; petrol bombs everyday, and that was just in our town. When you got home and switched on the TV, you could see what was happening in every other town as well, and it was like we were under siege. Fathers and brothers ...
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Features Thunderpants (2002) See more »


Written and performed by David Holmes
Courtesy of Mercury Records Limited
Under license from Universal Music Operations
Published by Universal/Island Music LImited
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User Reviews

Shadow of a Gunman...
22 March 2010 | by See all my reviews

The title is the first thing that shocks in this thought-provoking BBC drama on the supposed reconciliation of murderer and victim on the opposing sides of the "Irish Troubles" - James Nesbitt's damaged character equates "five minutes of heaven" to the feeling he anticipates when he takes his long sought revenge against against the now grown-up teenage gunman who shot down his big brother in front of his disbelieving infant eyes.

Taking a documentary approach, involving the use of hand-held camera shots and vernacular language, the film commences with a suspenseful 20 minute prelude to the modern-day action, by taking us back to the initial killing in Lurgan and the cold-blooded slaying of an innocent Catholic whose only crime is not leaving town quickly enough under orders of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The film then jumps forward as we see the James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson characters now grown up and preparing for a staged rapprochement in front of TV cameras. At first Nesbitt seems the more damaged, edgy, strung out, never able to exorcise the sight of what he saw as a child. Neeson's character seems calmer and more prepared, indeed, he's almost "dined-out" on his experiences re-living his experiences to various support groups down the years. However, when the time comes for him to face the actual witness to his crime, he too buckles under he pressure and in the end both men are irresistibly drawn to one other to expiate their demons at first violently and then calmly, by the conclusion.

The film works through the power of the source material, the naturalness of the direction and the conviction of the acting, especially by the principals. Nesbitt, so often the BBC's go-to tough guy is here a twitching, on-the-edge individual, who although on the face of it a happily married family man, has never satisfactorily confronted his demons. Neeson, having served, we're told 12 years in prison and as stated re-counted his experience several times over, nonetheless inhabits the same emotional no-man's-land as Nesbitt, indeed, there is no reference to him having any family whatsoever.

A few scenes didn't ring true, for one thing Nesbitt's mother's rage against her pre-teenage son's not somehow protecting his adult brother from an older gunman, seems misplaced. I rather think any mother would have ultimately been relieved that he'd survived never mind that he was the only one left behind as all the other family members went out separately on the fateful night. Perhaps too, the scenes involving the staged-for-TV meet-up between Murphy & Neeson go on too long (in particular a pointless drawn-out exchange between Nesbitt and a female "runner") while on a more basic level, there's really no way either man should have got up unharmed after pitching out a first floor window climaxing their "danse-macabre" at the climax.

There's a debatable point too about whether the film couldn't have been stretched to show both sides of the fence, i.e. a parallel story on the impact of IRA killings on the Protestant community, but the film is more about the universal themes of corrupted innocence, guilt, revenge and ultimately forgiveness that I can understand the film-maker honing his story down to the essence of these two characters. Ultimately, the story ends on a positive note, when the unconditional loving smile of Nesbitt's young daughter returns him to the present and effectively acts as the catalyst to free both men from the yoke of their memories.

As someone who grew up when the daily news was filled with stories of mutual atrocities on the Irish divide, this was a sobering and at times harrowing depiction of what it must have been like - leaving just one mystery for me...at the outset a titled legend talks about the piece as a fiction and yet the end titles seem to credit real-life characters bearing the names of those played out in the drama. Whither the truth?

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