Combustible Celluloid
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With: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, John Lynch, Corin Redgrave, Beatie Edney, John Benfield, Paterson Joseph, Marie Jones, Gerard McSorley, Frank Harper, Mark Sheppard, Don Baker, Tom Wilkinson, Saffron Burrows
Written by: Terry George, Jim Sheridan, based on a book by Gerry Conlon
Directed by: Jim Sheridan
MPAA Rating: R for language and politically-geneRated violence
Running Time: 133
Date: 12/12/1993

In the Name of the Father (1993)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Not Guilty

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Jim Sheridan's cinematic telling of the true story of the Guildford Four is a little pedestrian, but still cooks up many electrifying moments, thanks largely to three fantastic performances.

In In the Name of the Father, which is based on a true story, Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a petty thief in Belfast, Ireland. While robbing some scrap metal in the early 1970s, he gets into trouble with the IRA, and he is sent to London to live with his aunt. While there, he and his friend Paul Hill (John Lynch) fall in with a group of hippies, living all together in an abandoned flat.

In October of 1974, a local pub is bombed, and Gerry finds himself arrested for the crime. The police, desperate to close the case, rush Gerry, his friends, his aunt, and even his father, Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite) through trial and send them all to prison. Giuseppe continues to fight for freedom, despite his failing health, while lawyer Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson) helps from the outside. But Gerry must decide, at last, what he believes in and start to fight as well.

Co-written by Terry George, In the Name of the Father (1993) feels not unlike most other "based-on-a-true-story" movies in that it tries harder to nail down important details than it does in finding the emotional spaces between the details. It's also too long and a little too aware of its own importance. But the story it tells is a good one; the outrageous injustice committed against innocent people gets the blood boiling.

Day-Lewis, who had won an Oscar working with Sheridan before, on My Left Foot, is astounding playing the not-very-likable Gerry, enormously selfish and quick to feel sorry for himself. The actor finds a genuine emotional core that makes him relatable. We're with him every step of the way. His scenes with Postlethwaite — and there are thankfully quite a few of them — are the best in the movie. Their troubled, touching relationship feels like it goes back years and is based in absolute truth.

Thompson, meanwhile, has a rather tacked-on role, but she rages in it. You can feel the fire in her belly. All three actors received Oscar nominations for their work, and the film received four other nominations, including one for Best Picture. (Look quick for Saffron Burrows and Tom Wilkinson in small, early roles.)

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