Five Minutes of Heaven (2009) Poster

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My five minutes of heaven, how can that not be good for me?
Spikeopath27 June 2009
An estimated 3720 people were killed as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

This film is a fiction inspired by two men who bear the legacy of one of those killings.......

That is the opening salvo from the makers of Five Minutes of Heaven, I would personally like to add, since no other reviewer here has said it thus far, that the two protagonists never met in real life.

Five Minutes of Heaven was first screened at the Sundance festival in 2009 and won awards for Directing {Oliver Hirschbiegel} and for screen writing {Guy Hibbert}. It stars Liam Neeson as Alistair Little and James Nesbitt as Joe Griffen. The story is about how a young wannabe hero of the Ulster Volunteer Force {Little} gunned down the brother of Joe Griffen {Nesbitt}, purely because he was of Catholic religion, all witnessed by young soccer ball kicking Joe out on the pavement in front of the Griffen house. After the build up and execution of the crime, we forward to the future after Little has served 12 years prison for the murder, and here we now have a television company led meeting between the two after the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

It's only now that the film really kicks in as a powerful piece that has something to say. Too many third rate productions caricature their characters in films involving the British/Irish troubles, but the makers here are keen to avoid that-hence the appearance of Neeson, who wouldn't have come cheap one feels. Both Nesbitt {ranking along side George Best as most talented thing to come out of Northern Ireland} and Neeson then shift gears to ram home the point of the story. This is about forgiveness, pertinent questions about if that is possible under the most trying of circumstances. Would you be able to move on? And at what cost? Both sides of the coin are deftly rubbed by Hirschbiegel and his terrific cast.

It would be stupid of me to not say the piece has problems since it clearly isn't perfect. Both sides of the families involved are not formed at all, and that is without a doubt a very big misstep. Probably a victim of course of the TV movie production value and the sadly inept running time afforded it. But that annoyance aside, and in the context of the final product.....well it works out rather well I feel. There's some smart points of reference in there, note the young Little handling his gun amongst a sea of childhood toys, while there's a dolly out shot involving a church that nails that particular scene with maximum poignancy. But really, as is normally the way in this type of production, it lives or dies by its ending, and the question is answered as to if the actors involved have involved us enough to actually carry it off?

We are OK here, because we got Nesbitt and Neeson, point made, acted accordingly, yep, see this if you can. 8/10
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Acting which goes through the canvas
OJT12 July 2010
James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson are making this film a great and heartfelt story of reconciliation, as well as telling about reasons for both hatred and acts of terrorism.

All this in one film is difficult enough, and this is all made in 80 minutes. Liam Neeson is of course the one getting the prizes, but actually this is Oscar-material by James Nesbitt. So strong, it actually seems impossible that he can have a life beside it all. He's done well, but is still nagged by what he saw as eleven.

The story is about an 11 year old Joe (Nesbitt) watching his brother being assassinated by a 17 year old Protestant youngster (Neeson) wanting to be a terrorist during the civil war in Norther Ireland. 35 years later it's time to settle what has ruined the lives of both of them. They are not living, but merely existing, and not a day goes without being haunted by this killing.

The film is intense, and several times you wonder where it'll end. For some the end might not be what they ask for, but I think it makes the story strong. However - it's not the end that makes this movie, it's the ideas and the acting. Also some of the filming is superb, and is recognizable also for director Oliver Hirschbiegel and his work on Der Untergang (Downfall) describing the last days of Hitler. Very impressive from the whole team!
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It Lives Long After
Hitchcoc13 October 2010
I really had a hard time knowing what to make of this film. The opening is striking as a group of young Irish men plot the killing of another because you have to do something in the hornet's nest they are living in. Not only do they accomplish the killing, they destroy the life of a boy, the victim's brother, who witnessed everything. The most unfortunate thing is that this boy is blamed by his mother for not doing something to stop things. It then moves many years in the future. The two men are to meet on a kind of talk show. Incredible tension builds as the killer (played by Liam Neeson) gives some testimony and awaits the man whose life he pretty much destroyed. The outstanding thing about this film that there are no sides. As Neeson's character said, at the time he was proud. He went to bars and was hailed as a hero. He also knows that there is no forgiveness, no sorrow that can change anything. We await their confrontation. I will not comment on the events that follow. Suffice it to say that they are extremely intense and, I thought, satisfying.
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Compelling film and a must see
jakeh10 April 2009
Just viewed this tonight and thought it was really an excellent commentary on the difficulty of forgiveness, the helplessness of letting go, and, of course, how hate and regret can meet and be resolved (many times with misgivings and myopic single mindedness). It is said that forgiveness (whether of oneself or another) is the hardest endeavor a human being can face. This film brilliantly portrays the anguish of two men, one who hates and can't forgive another, and one who regrets and can't forgive himself. The brevity of the film (121 minutes) and the abrupt ending belies the volumes of emotion that permeate almost every scene. The movie is both compelling and enjoyable while also being very disturbing.

A part not to be overlooked is played by Anamaria Marinca (Vika), a 'gopher' for the film crew. Her character added quite a bit of depth to the film. Neeson and Nesbitt should both be recognized for their riveting performances.

In most films today the focus is on revenge, blood, and murder. "Five Minutes.." includes these vices but, contrary to the blood and gore in many movies today, this film's focal points are, indeed, letting go, finding your life and living it, focusing on what means most to you, demolishing the demons that haunt you, and, most importantly, discovering that elusive human effort which leads to forgiveness. It's hard...very hard, and most of us can't bring ourselves to that end because forgiveness is many times viewed by society as weakness when it is, in actuality, strength.
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Truth and Reconciliation
gradyharp17 January 2010
When friend Vika (Anamaria Marinca) asks Joe Griffen (James Nesbitt), the brother of a man killed in 1975 by one Alistair Little (Liam Neeson), if killing Alistair would not be good for him, Joe replies ' Not good for me? My five minutes of heaven!' And so runs the razor sharp dialog and acting and power of this little film from the UK that relates the story of a 1975 event in Northern Ireland when Catholics and Protestants were at war and the young Protestant Alistair Little (Mark David), as a UVF member (Ulster Volunteer Force), gathers his friends and 'kills a Catholic' - but the murder happens in front of the victim's 11-year-old brother Joe Griffen. Flash forward to 2008 when Alistair Little (now Liam Neeson) has served his prison term and is set up by the media to relate the story of the incident and supposedly meet and shake hands on camera with the now mature Joe Griffen. It is a film about youthful involvement in terrorism and the sequelae that haunts or obsesses the victim's family and the perpetrator. The confrontation between Alistair and Joe is a devastating one.

Guy Hibbert wrote this excruciatingly visceral screenplay and Oliver Hirschbiegel directs a first rate cast. Though Liam Neeson is billed as the star, the film belongs to the powerful acting by James Nesbitt as the vengeful Joe Griffen. The cinematography is dark and dank like the atmosphere in both the warring fog of 1975 and the attempt at reconciliation in 2008. There are subtle pieces of thoughtful enhancement, such as the use of the Mozart 'Requiem' in the near hidden score. In all, this is a moving film about truth and reconciliation that deserves the attention of us all, especially in this time of random acts of terrorism and their possible imprint on our minds and on society.

Grady Harp
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The film that could help to end terrorism
UncleTantra5 May 2009
Tonight I saw one of the best films I've seen in years. You might have to search for this one to find it, because it's probably not going to show up in your local multiplex, but if you can find it, you're in for a moving experience.

"Five Minutes Of Heaven" won the Directing award for Oliver Hirschbiegel and the World Cinema Screen writing Award for Guy Hibbert at the most recent Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. That, and the fact that Liam Neeson is in it, were the reasons I decided to watch it. I didn't even know what it was about.

It's about violence, and how violence shatters lives, and about how the shattering does not stop when the violence stops. Set in Northern Ireland, it is nothing more, nor less, than the meeting, 25 years later, between the man (Neeson) who in his youth murdered a Catholic for nothing more than being Catholic, and the murdered man's brother (portrayed so powerfully as to bring the audience I saw it with to tears more than once by James Nesbitt). As a child, he watched his brother murdered, and then was blamed by his own mother for killing him because he did nothing to stop it. He was nine.

Both men are shattered, 25 years later. One is seeking redemption and resolution by meeting the brother of the man he killed, and the other is seeking only revenge. I cannot spoil the film for anyone by saying more. All I can say is that this film would bring the Dalai Lama to tears, or Yasser Arafat. It's that powerful, and that well done.

This is the film that young people whose culture is pushing them into terrorism should be shown, before it's too late for them. And this is the film that those who feel no compassion for the terrorists should be shown, before it's too late for them, too.
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A very good film, I enjoyed it and it tells a story that needs to be told
Fergal O'Shea16 April 2009
Its probably pertinent I mention that I'd watch Liam Neeson reading the phone book - and walk away content. Having said that this is a story that needs to be told. People delude themselves if they think the formal end of a conflict ends the collateral damage thats a product of conflict.

The two primary characters are very engaging; The emotion expressed and the reasons for it are carefully and sympathetically explained. There is a gentleness to the story amid the unforgiving violence. In no other historical or fictional portrayal have I heard so simply but properly explained why people got involved in violence in the six counties of Ireland.

I found it "cute" to hear Neeson speaking in his own accent for once.
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The Troubles Unbound and Rebound
GD Cugham5 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In the period, in the early twenty-first century, just after Blair and Clinton had been seen to drag the Northern Ireland peace process back on track, Blair released several prisoners as part of the Good Friday agreement.

Men who had killed for and against both the protestant loyalist and Catholic republican sides of NI's divide were released, leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouths of supporters for peace.

The ensuing years saw a trend for TV specials, seating families of victims with the men who had killed their loved ones - a notable example being that of Michael Ryan's ill-fated quest for televisual forgiveness.

In 'Five Minutes of Heaven', James Nesbitt plays the younger brother of a man murdered by Neeson's loyalist 'Alistair Little'. The centrepiece of the film is the preparation of a face to face meeting, the first, between victim's relative and murderer, staged by a TV channel at a country retreat.

Instantly the injustices are laid bare. Men like the character Neeson portrays may never receive true forgiveness, yet has been educated and has meditated in prison to the point that this would be apotheosis. In contrast, Nesbitt's character has long nursed his wrath, a working man with no access to the mind-broadening utilities of prison. He is there to hurt, even kill 'Little', but ultimately escapes the TV crew and avoids it.

Neeson, in the end, stages a near 'High Noon' style meeting on Nesbitt's home turf, climaxing in a cathartic and achingly defeatist brawl in a bombed out house.

"Moving on" seems to be the only moral, as easy and as difficult as that is, while the disparity between physical and emotional prisons and the inescapable conclusion that all involved receive sentences as a result of crimes is apposite.

A sobering and powerful exploration of scarred psyches.
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Rabster227 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent (fictional) drama centered around just one of many single acts of mindless violence, and its aftermath during the notorious "troubles" of Northern Ireland. Alistair Little at aged just seventeen feels he is ready to make his first 'kill' for the UVF, a "loyalist" paramilitary group. In the small town of Lurgan, the sectarian divide does not mean that people are not aware of others on the other side. Little and his three equally young companions may not be friendly with their given target, but they do 'know' him...but he is a Catholic and that is all that matters. The killing is witnessed by the victim's 11 yr. old brother Joe Giffen. The story moves ahead 30 years or so, Little (Liam Neeson) is to meet Giffen (James Nesbitt) for a TV show purportedly about 'reconciliation.' Nesbitt gets the most screen time and gives a highly charged performance as the super-tense Giffen prepares to meet his brother's killer. Giffen has a slightly one-dimensional view of how things have panned out over the past 30 years. He has been stuck for the most part in a tedious factory job. Little, though having served 12 years in prison now gives talks about conflict and the burden of being a killer. In Giffen's perception, Little is living it large, spouting platitudes for fat pay cheques while enjoying classy hotels and associated 'luxuries' - in short Giffen believes Little enjoys a 'rock star' lifestyle on the back of a callous murder. The TV crew located in a grand country house for this interview, ooze insincerity just as Nesbitt oozes tension. "It's all about you" they claim when really we know they just want a dramatic TV showdown. We soon learn that Giffen has nothing in mind but vengeance, he is carrying a nasty looking knife and surely intends to murder the apparently calm and measured Little, on TV if needs be. It is the introduction of Vika, a lowly runner for the TV crew who begins to throw a spanner in the works. In this grand location, the balcony is the only place anyone can smoke, both Joe Giffen and Vika take this opportunity and her empathetic/sympathetic words begin to eat into Giffen. She has (albeit briefly) met Little and visited his flat "it is not a home" "he is a broken man" are things that shatter Giffen's preconceived ideas and things he does not want to hear. He wants to kills a gloating monster not a "broken man." After Giffen refuses to take part in the interview we begin to hear a bit more of Little's side of the story. Neeson is also very good and is convincing as a man who genuinely regrets his past but tries to explain it without justifying it. The drama does not end here but I will. Watch it for yourself, it is an intense, unglamourous indictment of terrorism which is not only pertinent to NI.
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Painfully brilliant
wooflydog24 April 2009
An excruciating depiction of the agony of conscience, portrayed poignantly by the two main actors. The film is not by any means a pleasant experience, but the very fact that it IS an experience is evidence of how greatly it can affect the viewer.

Do not seek easy answers to the great problems of the human condition here - apart, that is, from the crucial lesson that group identities can be vehicles of great evil, and that once inside the group, the only criticism the group-member can hear is that which comes from within the group itself (hence, for example, the need for Muslims to denounce terrorism from inside the mosques) - but if you're interested in understanding the powerful forces of spiritual and emotional dynamics in the context of an irreconcilable dilemma, and if you're sick of saccharine-sweet PC superficiality, send the kids out of the room, turn off the lights, and let this masterpiece move you.
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