Five Minutes of Heaven
(Or Agony in Ulster)
Even if time heals all wounds, it must be acknowledged that some wounds are deeper than others. In Five Minutes of Heaven (out now on DVD), two men from opposite sides of the Troubles in Northern Ireland agree to meet in a televised reconciliation.
They were just boys in 1975 when the incident occurred. Alistair Little, a 16-year from the Protestant Ulster Volunteers, murdered a young Catholic in his home in the tit-for-tat violence that suffused the province. Witnessing the crime was the victim’s younger brother, Joe Griffin. Years later, Little, who became an international negotiator on behalf of truth and reconciliation in strife-torn lands, is plagued with guilt for his crime. Griffin remains badly scared. They agree to meet but the tension is electric. Griffin would rather kill his brother’s murderer than shake his hand.
It’s a psychologically interesting set-up by director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) and screenwriter Guy Hibbert, and even if the climax and resolution rings a little iffy, Five Minutes of Heaven affords its stars an opportunity for some fine acting. Liam Neeson is emotionally corked as the adult Little, maintaining a clammy poker face on the way to meeting the man whose life he damaged many years before. James Nesbitt steals every scene as Griffin, an emotionally turbulent man who lurches from panic attack to violence to an angry and memorable soliloquy on revenge.