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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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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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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
fergaloshea16 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
velvoofell5 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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Strong, simple, sometimes even slow, but never irrelevant, and some great acting
secondtake6 August 2012
Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

I have a confession--when the movie started I thought, okay, another pro-IRA movie with a heart. And it's not--it's a beautifully balanced movie about the personal horrors of the Northern Ireland bloodshed and the longterm aftermath as participants struggle to keep going.

The two main actors are both from Northern Ireland. Liam Neeson plays a Protestant who as a teenage killed a Catholic worker as part of the tit-for-tat violence of the time. James Nesbitt, a Roman Catholic, plays the brother of the man who was killed, and as a witness to the crime he holds a deep grudge about the murder. And in a key act of political insight, the actors were born on the opposite sides--Neeson was raised Catholic and Nesbitt raised Protestant.

The theme of the film is reconciliation in the mold of South African leader Nelson Mandela. The core of the movie is shot in a fancy Irish mansion where television crews are going to watch as the two men, mortal enemies decades before, make an effort to somehow move on, in public, on t.v.

How it goes is for you to see. The murder in the 1970s is fact, easy enough to believe, and the meeting of the men is fiction. Nesbitt is utterly terrific. You might think he's overacting (he is, of course, overacting) but it's appropriate, and gives this non-action film some intensity. Neeson is strong in his restraint and in the one main scene where he gives a well-written speech about how to understand these horrors he is also terrific.

The filming is extremely simple and in fact the whole scenario is relatively linear, even with all the flashbacks. There are some turns to the events by the last half hour, and in a way this is both the dramatic high and the disappointing low of the film (it resorts to somewhat corny and not quite smartly filmed sequences I won't elaborate). But overall the point is so strong and well meant it's hard to worry too much about whether it's a masterpiece.

It's not. It's sometimes slow, it says stuff we probably have absorbed pretty well by now, and it isn't very complex. But what it does do it does with compassion and conviction.
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Shadow of a Gunman...
Lejink22 March 2010
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 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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Five Minutes of Heaven
jboothmillard27 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I had no idea what the film itself was going to consist of, I guess I was attracted more by the two leading Irish actors, from director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall). Basically the film opens in 1975, where nineteen-year-old Jim Griffen (Gerard Jordan) is murdered by seventeen-year-old Alistair Little (Mark Davison). Jim's eleven-year-old brother Joe was witness to the murder, and even though Alistair went to prison for twelve years, it seemed like Joe's Mum (Paula McFetridge) was blaming Joe for not stopping him. Thirty three years since these events, in the present day, a television documentary crew has set up a meeting between older Alistair Little (Liam Neeson) and Joe Griffen (James Nesbitt). Alistair does not know that a volatile Joe plans to avenge his brother's death, while Alistair seems calm and wanting redemption and forgiveness. When Joe gets emotional just before the meeting, he changes his mind and refuses to be filmed face to face with Alistair, and they both discuss their pasts in their own places. Then they arrange to meet in an old house, where Joe tries to stab Alistair, and in a tackle they both end up crashing through the window, lying together on the pavement. Injured, Alistair checks Joe's pulse, they have both survived the fall, Alistair tells Joe he is going back to Belfast, but then he tells Joe to get rid of him and go back to his daughters. He of course means to forget about him, and after shakily lighting a cigarette and picking himself up he limps away down the road. The next day, Joe attends a group sharing problems and cries about wanting to be a good father, and in the end he calls Alistair up and says, "we're finished. Also starring Anamaria Marinca as Vika, Juliet Crawford as Cathy, Niamh Cusack as Alistair's Mum, Gerry Doherty as Joe's Dad and Paul Garret as Alistair's Dad. Both Neeson and Nesbitt excel in this drama that is a little of an original in the way that it is executed, no wonder it was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. Very good!
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mikey187-818-89962026 March 2015
After reading some reviews on this film i was really expecting a lot more than what I got. It felt more like a itv programme than a film.

The film deals with guilt and forgiveness, and shows the harsh reality of how both of these feelings effect people. After a long, dragged out piece of the film the two finally meet and I suppose acceptance from both of them happens where they can both move on.

Before they met i just expected more tension, and it was all a bit of an anti climax.

I suppose it shows that the innocent person can become the more angry and aggressive one out of the two, while the one who committed the murder was full of gulit and remorse for his actions, the victim was very bitter and angry, but the film went to show that meeting actually did them both good and gave them both the release and acceptance to move on with their lifes.
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gavin694220 February 2014
The story of former UVF member Alistair Little (Liam Neeson). Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen's brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter called it "very good at stating the obvious but fails to bring new insight to this age-old morality tale". That seems like a fair opinion to me. The film is good, topical, and Neeson is a great casting choice. But it does not seem to add anything new.

Sadly, I am not sure if this film had much impact outside of the United Kingdom, because the Irish problem is something Americans are only vaguely aware of.
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"Cinematic, dramatic and acutely reflective..."
SindreKaspersen23 August 2013
German screenwriter and television and film director Oliver Hirschbiegel's sixth feature film which was written by British screenwriter Guy Hibbert, is partly inspired by real events which took place in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s. It premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic section at the 25th Sundance Film Festival in 2009, was shot on locations in Northern Ireland and is an Ireland-UK co-production which was produced by producers Eoin O'Callaghan and Stephen Wright. It tells the story about a 17-year-old Protestant named Alistair Little who on his first assignment for a loyalist paramilitary group called the Ulster Volunteer Force on the 29th of October in 1975 in the town of Lurgan, Northern Ireland kills a 19-year-old Catholic man named Jim Griffin right in front of the eyes of his younger brother named Joe. Thirty-three years later a documentary team for the television industry has made arrangements for a meeting between Alistair Little and Joe Griffin at a place called the River Finn centre which is to be publicly broadcasted and where the two men will get a chance to confront each other and tell their stories.

Distinctly and subtly directed by European filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel, this finely paced and somewhat fictional tale which is narrated by the two main characters and mostly from their viewpoints, draws an involving and humane portrayal of a middle-aged man who after having spent the last three decades in guilt and thinking about the young boy who witnessed him executing his older brother, and another middle-aged man who has spent his last three decades feeling guilty after being blamed by his mother for not doing anything to prevent the killer from taking her son's life. While notable for it's naturalistic and variegated milieu depictions, fine cinematography by Irish cinematographer Ruairi O'Brien, production design by production designer Mark Lowry and use of colors, this character-driven and narrative-driven story about an Irish husband and father of two whom is looking for his five minutes of heaven and a single man whom after having served twelve years in prison and the following years using his experience to tell other people how to get through their lives is looking for reconciliation, depicts two dense and interrelated studies of character and contains a timely score by composers David Holmes and Leo Abrahams.

This somewhat historic, conversational and psychological television film which is set in Lurgan, County Donegal and Belfast in Northern Ireland in the late 20th century during the Troubles and the early 21st century, and where a man, marred by an observation from his past, is looking for a way to get the image of the man who took one of his family members away from him out of his mind, has to let go of his vengeance and find it in him to forgive, is impelled and reinforced by it's fragmented narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, brilliant scenes between Joe and Vika, poignant monologues, documentary-like realism, existentialistic, austere and at times humorous dialog, engaging acting performances by Irish actors James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson and the fine acting performance by Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca. A cinematic, dramatic and acutely reflective character piece which gained, among other awards, the World Cinema Directing Award Oliver Hirschbiegel and the World Cinema Screen writing Award Guy Hibbert at the 25th Sundance Film Festival in 2009.
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Two men with bad history meet for a filmed encounter, but something goes terribly wrong.
tinseltowndirector1 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Well, it's hard to talk about this film without giving anything away but I'll say what I think a lot of people think: Even though Liam Neeson gave a spectacular, understated performance, James Nesbitt gave the performance of a lifetime in this character piece set in post war Ireland. The producer's (in film) idea was to put two men together who had terrible history together and watch what happens. Allegedly, it was to find resolution but what producer wouldn't want a fist fight on his show? While James Nesbitt's character appeared to be hurting the most, Liam Neeson's character turned out to be carrying a lot more emotional damage that he couldn't shed. Yes, it is a simple plot but the emotional subplots run deep and complex and they are what determines the character's actions. You know, the setting, direction, production are all solid--that's not what this review is about. How can you find resolution when you have suffered a terrible blow? Well worth the time to watch it and it is now on my top 25 list of which Debbie Does Dallas is at the top...just kidding. It would be a tossup between Apocalypse Now and Cool Hand Luke. Great watching.
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Definitive acting tour de force
rc-446-27909415 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Remarkable interior acting; never caught him acting once! Amazing resources; 3-D characterization, turning on a dime, caught my breath more than a few times. I'm 79 years old,a stage director, still looking for greatness in acting; this is the first time I've ever bothered commenting on any actors other than my own students. That last scene is unforgettable. Nesbitt is a wonder! If I've seen him in motion pictures before, he never registered. This role gives him a chance to stun. Great joy watching him. Having acted myself, I can't imagine how he achieved the depth of his characterization. Technique? Some. Style? Lots. Method? How about lightning flashes from one method to another, seamless. Stellar! I'm better for watching him in this flick; too bad I don't remember him from others. But I'll be watching!
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Truth and Reconciliation
Eumenides_030 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Oliver Hirschbiegel is slowly carving himself a niche as a political filmmaker. After giving Nazism a human face in Der Untergang, he tackles the IRA and the difficulties of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants.

Liam Neeson plays Alistair Little, former member of the Ulster Volunteer Force. As a young man he killed a Catholic and become famous amongst his people, but also haunted by the image of the victim's brother looking at him as he made his kill.

James Nesbitt plays Joe Griffen, the brother of the victim, who grows up tormented because his mother blamed him for not having done anything to save his brother.

Decades after the fact, these two men are invited to meet in a TV show to discuss truth and reconciliation. Little goes to exorcise his ghosts; Griffen goes to kill him and get his 'five minutes of heaven'.

For a ninety-minute movie, there are a lot of ideas in this movie. Besides raising questions like whether it's possible for enemies to come together, it also displays the media exploitation of grief and misery, and how society can be kinder to a criminal who shows regret than to a victim that lives all his life with his feelings bottled up.

However the movie is no masterpiece. In spite of the stellar performances by the leading men, the resolution of their life-long conflict is ridiculously (perhaps insultingly) done through a brawl. Also not enough time is given to develop their lives: we see so little of who and what they are in their day to day existence.

Nevertheless the movie has many strong parts, especially the first sequence set in 1975, as see the slow build-up of the murder. It's fascinating to watch all four killers starting the day and preparing themselves, as they go through fear and excitement. Many of these young men wanted to kill someone just to prove they were men, and one can't help feeling sorry for their illusions. Furthermore, the victims were people they knew and spoke to, making the whole conflict ridiculous. It's disturbing how people can be killed for so little.

As a reconstruction of the way life was in Ireland in the '70s, this is a fine movie. As an exploration of reconciliation, it was a noble but failed attempt. This should not keep people from watching it.
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Revenge and Redemption
claudio_carvalho17 February 2010
In February, 1975, in Northern Ireland, the 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 (Liam Neeson) and Joe (James Nesbitt) in a house in River Finn expecting the truth and the reconciliation of the murderer and the victim that actually seeks five minutes of heaven.

"Five Minutes of Heaven" is a fictional tale about the effects of violence in the lives of the survivors, the victim that seeks revenge and the killer that seeks redemption and spiritual peace after thirty- three years. The pacifist story uses a terrorist act of a young man blinded by the environment of violence in Northern Ireland to disclose the powerful drama, but could be any other sort of violence or fanaticism that are frequently displayed in the headlines of the news and is not specifically about terrorism as mentioned in some reviews. James Nesbitt has an awesome performance in the role of a man that has his family destroyed due to a senseless crime only because his brother was Catholic. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Rastros de Justiça" ("Trails of Justice")
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NOT a one sided view of Irish Terrorism.
vitaleralphlouis28 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Almost every other movie I can think of concerning terrorism in Ireland takes the "politically correct" position that Irish terrorism is just fine, but the British victims of the Irish terrorism are evil. This movie takes no sides.

Personally, I'm a firm Catholic, but in the Northern Ireland conflict it's the British Protestants that are on the right side, the Irish Catholics are 100% wrong. The citizens of Northern Ireland are Protestants by a wide margin, and they strongly want to be a part of the UK, yet many Americans support a violent minority which blows up women and children at will in order to support overthrow of a majority elected government. Shame on these immoral ninnies.

The two men in this film were on opposite sides, and the devastation to both men is clearly shown. With Liam Neeson portraying the Protestant loyal to the UK, you might notice a large number of Union Jack British flags all over his neighborhood. In fact, such neighborhoods usually have 10 times as many Union Jacks as shown here; sometimes hundreds everywhere you look. They wear their British loyalty on their sleeve.

The theme of the two men coming together to settle their differences years after violent events is contrived, a message for "peace" -- another agenda movie. Not bad, but I'd score 6 out of 10.
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The damage lasts.
davoshannon13 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt give performances with depth, and I almost suspect real feelings within themselves - on the basis of "there but for the grace, etc., could I have gone".

It's tough going, and the search for redemption / revenge must be a common feeling in what I still believe is a blighted land. It might be spoiler to say that it's not that certain that resolution was found in the end.

The media circus surrounding the first half just highlights the exploitative characteristics of the modern media, nothing more. But as "Jakeh" said the best character in this circus was Anamaria Marinca (Vika)who had enough personal/ethnic experience to know a possible outcome, and enough judgment to let the situation play itself out.

My condolences to Liam Neeson on his tragic loss.

And a final postscript. Maybe most people won't realise that both actors were playing against type - you know, the Catholic plays the Protestant, etc. Could be wrong, but that adds another dimension.
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Heaven raises heavy questions about forgiveness
C-Younkin19 August 2009
Can truth and reconciliation be achieved with the man who killed a loved one? That's the question put forth in "Five Minutes of Heaven," a character-driven, suspenseful film with two extremely powerful performances from Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt.

It begins in Northern Ireland, 1975. A teenage Alistair Little tires of Protestants being killed in the streets, and so joins the Ulster Volunteer Force determined to gain the respect of his brothers by killing a Catholic. James Griffin becomes his victim, while little brother Joe Griffin looks on in horror. It's a gut-wrenching scene as Joe watches his brother gunned down, locks eyes with Alistair, then sees James bleed to death. Not only is Joe traumatized by the event, but he carries a deep resentment that his mother blamed him for not doing anything to save James.

"Heaven," directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel ("Downfall") and written by Guy Hibbert, focuses on young boys needing to be men. Alistair marvels at the power of holding a gun, without understanding the weight that comes with it. And Joe is constantly blamed for inaction, but what could a young boy have done? He intends to remedy that later during a meeting, set-up by the media, that unites him with Alistair. Joe, played as an adult by Nesbitt, anxiously rehearses the things he wants to say. He not only wants to relay the hurt, the disappointment in the lack of Alistair's punishment, but also to hear Alistair remove the blame that his mother put on him. He even wants to know if Alistair remembers the little things about that night, like the pictures that hung on the wall, cause Joe remembers everything.

Alistair, played by Neeson, is changed. He served twelve years for robbery and came out a voice for urging other young men that killing is wrong. He is confronted with the reality of his atrocities on a daily basis and he hates himself for them. It doesn't matter to Joe though. He spits at the idea of having to shake Alistair's hand, to reconcile, and then watch Alistair go on his merry way, forgiven. What's done is done. Revenge is key and even Alistair knows it.

The TV crew setting up around where the men will make their connection adds another dimension to the film. Only looking to make good television, the constant annoyance of the cameras, where technical mishaps happen that demand re-takes, only serve to hammer home that this is the most sacred of meetings. Watching Joe walk down the stairs to meet Alistair for the first time, only to have to do it again cause of tech-failure, are angering.

Neeson and Nesbitt are fantastic. Neeson shows the mental anguish Alistair has gone through for his atrocities but also the acceptance that he must do this meeting with Joe. And Nesbitt is an anxious ball of anger. Watching him rant about what Alistair did to him and the lack of punishment for that act is heartbreaking and pummeling in its level of rage. A counterpoint later on when he hears from a runner on the TV set that Alistair is now a sad, broken down man leads to an interesting reaction from Joe as well.

"Heaven" never loses track of these men as they grapple with the difficulties of forgiveness (as does the audience) and never hits a false note in showing what they go through. You anxiously wait for them to finally meet and when they do the suspense is very real. This movie is, above all, a human story with an important meaning in our terrorism-around-the-globe-world.
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Only The Suffering Lasts Forever
AudioFileZ25 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is the opposite of a "feel-good" movie. In fact it is more of a history lesson in why terrorism is not righteous or just, but only pure evil.

Those who choose to indulge in violence as a method of misguided morality need a mirror. In it's simplicity of a single death "Five Minutes To Heaven" achieves what so few have managed to...And does so quite evocatively.

Based on factual events, though fictionalized, Liam Neeson portrays a UVF recruit who at the age of 17 commits a murder. He feels no remorse as it is warranted in the wake of all the events he is witnessed since birth. Too young and brainwashed he is, in fact, too young to see the unbelievable consequences his senseless act will cause. James Nesbitt plays the young sibling of the victim whose family soon dies with the aftermath of the incident. Without a family to rely on he slowly seethes with venom over his loss - though he goes forward with a semblance of a normal life. Neeson and Nesbitt knock it out of the park in their gut-wrenching depictions.

In todays world when religious terrorism reaches almost all nations how relevant this all seems. Absolutely none of the parties benefit short or long-term from death and destruction. Everything only gets darker until which time only tolerance and forgiveness can remain if life is to be lived. That is what this movie is teaching...I just hope people are learning. A must see.
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An excellent piece of work all round but especially from James Nesbit
lotmsl26 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
For those of us in the UK that had O D'd on James Nesbit (he was on everything at one stage) and therefore may not have given this a chance because of him, I would strongly recommend you do.

He is absolutely brilliant in this piece. I could really believe he was that boy who's life was all but ruined. The hurt, anger, confusion, despair of the situation is portrayed amazingly by him.I am really impressed by his talent and I now hope to see more of him in the future.

The whole film is excellent, I was completely wrapped up in it. The tension when the two characters almost meet is incredible.

Liam Neeson,is also wonderful and you feel for his character too.

I can't recommend this highly enough. Congratulations to all concerned in it's making and I recommend you see it.
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