Man's coerced confession to an IRA bombing he didn't do imprisons his father as well; a British lawyer helps fight for their freedom.
Release Year: 1993
Rating: 8.1/10 (37,918 voted)
Critic's Score: 84/100
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Alison Crosbie
A small time thief from Belfast, Gerry Conlon, is falsely implicated in the IRA bombing of a pub that kills several people while he is in London. Bullied by the British police, he and four of his friends are coerced into confessing their guilt. Gerry's father and other relatives in London are also implicated in the crime. He spends 15 years in prison with his father trying to prove his innocence with the help of a British attorney, Gareth Peirce. Based on a true story.
Writers: Gerry Conlon, Terry George
Girl in Pub
IRA Man 1
(as Stuart Wolvenden)
IRA Man 2
IRA Man 3
In the name of truth… In the name of justice… In the name of love.
Release Date: 25 February 1994
Filming Locations: Ardmore Studios, Herbert Road, Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland
Box Office Details
Did You Know?
Despite his executive producer credit, Gabriel Byrne distanced himself from the project, chiefly due to the "artistic" liberties that were taken with the details of the story.
In in Belfast apartment, as Mr. Conlon is preparing to go to London to help Gerry, he throws some CDs in his case.
Was I always bad, was I?
I don't deserve to spend the rest of my life in here do I?
All they done was block out the light.
[points to his head]
They can't block out the light in here.
Ignores major facts to make its case but is still a good film and an effective piece about injustice
Gerry Conlon is a small time Belfast thief who gets excluded from
Northern Ireland by the IRA for anti-social behaviour and goes to live
in England with his old school friend Paul Hill. They are in London
when the mainland bombing campaign becomes more intense and they are
both picked up for the bombing despite their claims of innocence. After
more than week of beatings, abuse and threats, the two men break and
sign confessions, longing for the beatings to stop and hoping the
courts would see through the lies. However they are found guilty and,
along with other relatives, sentenced to time ranging from 14 years to
life. As time goes on Gerry and his father campaign for their case to
be reopened until, eventually, the lawyer Gareth Pierce takes up the
I came to this film having not seen it since its release in the early
90's, at which time I was still living in Northern Ireland in a mostly
Protestant area. Given the subject matter the film was well received in
this area. I decided to rewatch the film last night so that I could
review it for this site and, since first seeing it, I have actually
more of an insight on the subject matter since I had been held without
charge under the same legislation that held the Guildford Four and had
been taken to court twice before the charges were entirely dropped. I
say this not as some claim to having a more valid opinion than anyone
else but simply as a counter to those who will accuse me of being
biased on the basis of being a Protestant.
While I can see myself that the majority of reviews here for this film
are slanted and full of political bias I will attempt to keep my review
as free of this as I can (either one way or another).
Despite the fact that the film leaves out glaring facts, none of these
facts actually affect the film's main thrust that these men were (for
this crime) unjustly accused, tried and convicted. The facts that are
ignored are those which would have made the film a bit more complex (eg
Hill's membership of the IRA) and I can understand why the makers
decided to just make the subject as clean cut as they could and not
present the audience with anything that may cause them to be in any
doubt about what they are meant to be feeling. I can understand why
they did it but that does not make it right and I would have welcomed
a more complex film because those of us from Northern Ireland know that
nothing is ever as simply as right/wrong, black/white but Hollywood
is not there to inform but to entertain and hence the facts get lost on
the road to a good film. And it is a good film.
It is frustrating that people take what it tells them as fact but this
doesn't take away from the fact that this is a well made, engaging and
quite moving film. Regardless of political beliefs, the idea of a
justice system that would do this is interesting and worrying to me,
and the film does a good job (albeit it overegged) of letting us see
the extent that the police went to to get, if not 'their man', then at
least 'a man'. The film does well to deliver characters (although
simplified) that are easy to get behind and they helped me get involved
in a story that was already pretty involving in its own right. The
direction feels professional and injects enough emotion and sense of
anger into the film to give it a solid sense of pace without it ever
really tipping over into sentimentality or out and out
preaching/ranting. Of course the material also helps from a great cast
that deliver well and do their bit to keep it edgy and not sentimental.
Day-Lewis is a very good actor and he does well here making his Gerry
go through the stages of being a cheeky young man, frightened,
shell-shocked, defeated, angry and then driven without us ever thinking
he is a different character. If anything it is a shame that the film
did paint his character so clean because I think Day-Lewis could have
easily handled the moral complexities that would have come with that
territory. Postlewaite is the real emotional heart of the film in many
ways and he does very well with a role that could easily have been
cloying and sentimental but Postlewaite plays it straight till the
end. Thompson is all too simple and upright and her performance is
little more than a cameo; this is made worse by the fact that the vast
majority of English people are biased and corrupt according to the film
again, like leaving facts out, just an attempt by the film to
simplify things to make the audiences' emotions clearer and stronger.
Overall I like this film but it is not a perfect piece of cinema nor
should it be taken as the whole story. The film has dropped facts and
directed its presentation to ensure that we, the audience, are in no
doubt over what we should be feeling and thinking throughout. This does
not change the message of the film or the injustice of the things that
happened but it doesn't do justice to the always-complicated situation
that is my country. The film as a film is very good well acted, well
paced, well directed and engaging from the early realistic shots of
Belfast in the 1970's through to the 'I'm going out the front door'
finale that is no less impacting for us knowing it is coming.