Yes, I see you in this movie, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Gerry Conlon is a thief and general ne’er-do-well in Belfast, Ireland. His much more law-abiding family ships him off to London with the hope he’ll reform his ways and straighten up. Instead, Conlon and his friend fall in with a commune of hippies, stirring up jealousy and rivalries amongst other members of the hippie clique.
Gerry is living a carefree, drugged-out lifestyle in London when the Guildford Pub is bombed by the IRA, killing several people. A jealous member of the commune drops a line to cops that Conlon and his Irish friend may be responsible, so they are all rounded up. All of the suspects are tortured and threatened. Giuseppe, Gerry’s devoted and steadfast father, heads to London to try and clear his son’s name – only to find himself arrested as well.
From there, confessions are extracted and a trial is held. All of the suspects are found guilty, even though the defendants are all innocent. Gerry is dealt a thirty year sentence and his father is thrown in jail alongside him.
Giuseppe, who is afflicted with a terrible lung condition, begins petitioning for appeals and help from his jail cell, while Gerry stews and becomes more and more bitter as the years progress. While Giuseppe is determined to clear their names, Gerry gives up hope. It is not until a harsh violence sets into Gerry’s life and when a barrister named Gareth Peirce steps in to help that his attitude begins to change.
Pete Postlethwaite is easily the best thing about the movie. Of course, I’m a little biased. He’s one of my favorite “I know that dude, who is he?” kind of actors and he’s wonderful as Giuseppe Conlon. Stalwart and good-hearted, he’s a father who tries to help his son as best he can. He’s no saint, however, and Postlethwaite plays a very human, very sad sort of character.
Emma Thompson is only in the film for about fifteen minutes total, playing Gareth Peirce, something which I find curious given the fact that she has top billing on the movie. Hey, she’s Emma Thompson, I know. She does fine for her fifteen minutes – the best stuff she has is sadly one courtroom speech at the end. Sad.
It’s Daniel Day-Lewis, however, who has the main part. We all know how I feel about pretentious, smarmy Daniel Day-Lewis, but I will give him credit. He does a great job throughout 90% of the movie. Gerry Conlon can be unpalatable and unsympathetic at times, but Day-Lewis does well enough to make you accept those facts and move on. What destroys me is one scene where Conlon’s stuck in solitary confinement and has a complete meltdown.
He begins taking audio tapes and ripping them up. He wraps them around his face. Stalking around his cell with wrapped-up audio tape around his visage and warbling like a bird, it’s really hard to take Daniel Day-Lewis seriously in that moment. I have to say, I laughed. And I could be biased here, my dislike of Daniel the Haberdasher-In-Training could be seeping through, but it’s that one ridiculous scene that ruins half the movie for me. It takes what up until that point has been a very excellent performance and reduces it down to being cheese-laden.
It’s a fine movie which is worth a watch. I wouldn’t ever add it to the DVD library I’ve got, but it was not a waste of time in the slightest. And it’s telling, I think, that I can offer up that for 90% of the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis is not hitting you in the face with his Method Actor self and instead, just plays a part well.