The idea of reconciliation between two men from opposite sides of a life-and-death struggle is perhaps impossible or even incredibly naïve. Five Minutes of Heaven, a film that tracks the lives of two men from the same town but different sides of the Irish political divide, is unlike any other on this subject. One man, Alistair, is a killer; the other, Joe, is the brother of the man he killed. One feels he dare not ask for forgiveness; the other feels incapable of giving it. And so the scene is set in this masterfully conceived drama, written by Guy Hibbert (Omagh) and perfectly directed by German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel. The leads are Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, and they are both superb. But the film's careful construction is what transforms this from predictable to transcendent. This isn't a work of expiation or guilt; neither does it seek a simplistically dramatic finale. It is, like its subject, the portrait of a process; and the hatred and trauma that are its foundation are such that their genesis took years. Five Minutes of Heaven is replete with an almost-exquisite sensitivity and quest for understanding. It is perhaps impossible to erase the past, but we are better off for encountering it with the kind of passion and insight emanating from a true work of art.
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Producer: Eoin O'Callaghan
Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca, Niamh Cusack, Conor MacNeill, Lalor Roddy, Barry McEvoy, Richard Dormer, Paul Kennedy and Jonathan Harden
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