MOVIE REVIEW: The Truth Commissioner

Director: Declan Recks
Writer: Eoin O’Callaghan
Stars: Roger Allam, Barry Ward, Conleth Hill

Fictional telling of the Truth Commission.  One of the worlds leading lawyers and peace negotiators is brought to Northern Ireland to shed light on the missing victims of the Northern Ireland Conflict.

As you all know I’m Irish, I was born in Dublin in 1975 and for the majority of my life I lived watching the news of what happened in the Northern counties of my country.  I watched and I was terrified.  Thankfully we were mostly untouched in the South of our island.  The threat was always there as the paramilitaries on both sides picked targets to further their cause.  I didn’t understand the ins and outs of the conflict all that much as I escaped into movies, as I still do, but I knew that some members of my community had close links to the Republican movement.  During the conflict there were Men, Women, and Teens who went missing for various reasons and their bodies have never been found.  The Truth Commissioner tells the story of a peace negotiator who comes to Northern Ireland to find out who was involved in the disappearances and where the bodies are.

Sadly the film is disappointing on a number of levels.  Just as you think that we’re going to get some punches like In the Name of the Father or last years excellent Seventy-One you have some quiet moment which just dissolves the tension.  The cast of English and Irish actors do their jobs well, but the problem lies in the script.  The arty shots from the photography department are placed in their to expand parts where the script fails.

The best way to describe this film, well the best clean way to describe this film, is to say that it pulls too many punches.  I do have a way to describe this film which is less professional and a little dirty to boot, but I’m going to have to save that for my memoirs as I want to continue to write.  The pulling of punches in movies doesn’t work, you want each moment to hit you in the head and have you leaving the cinema with a little bit of a haze of awesomeness spinning your head around.

Why do I think they didn’t go all the way through with their intentions?  Well I live in Ireland, I know Irish history, and I know for a fact that this subject has a deeper story with factual evidence that could have been used to support the drama here.  There is a total lack of emotion relating to the victims of these crimes, the families are cast and pass a few tears, but the reality is that these families are more devastated than anyone here can convey.  The politicians are stereotypical Irish gangsters turned politicians, meant to have menace but for some strange reason they just come across as an almost parody of what actors think ex-paramilitary leaders act like.

The main star of the film, and I love him in The Thick of It, is Roger Allam.  He plays Henry Stanfield, the Truth Commissioner, whose job it is to uncover the truth about who, why, and where the bodies of the missing are.  We don’t go deep enough with his job, his past, or his conviction, while it’s nice to see him in something more solid than the bit parts he usually gets,it’s a shame that this doesn’t hit as hard as we wanted.

This film will appeal more outside of Ireland for people ignorant of what was widely called ‘The Troubles’ but for anyone in our little Island it’s going to lack anything that would have made it a classic of Irish cinema.  For me it felt as a half-hearted attempt at a subject that needs to be tackled with a little more depth in the story.  Sadly I can’t tell you that this is worth your time, if you want to know a little more about the conflict in Northern Ireland the two films that I mentioned earlier will serve you better.

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