Five Minutes of Heaven


Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 15
  2. Negative: 1 out of 15

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Powerhouse performances by Liam Neeson and James Nesbit make this an intense, ultimately moving tale.
  2. 80
    When violence eventually rears its ugly head again, the effect is as anticlimactic as the movie’s title is misleading. Brief bliss is a red herring; there’s only a lifetime of pain left in such acts’ wakes.
  3. 75
    Hirschbiegel fails to discipline his English-speaking cast, allowing Nesbitt so much rein with his caffeinated performance that sympathies shift to Neeson’s comparatively sanguine murderer.
  4. 75
    The title of the overlong Fifty Dead Men Walking refers to lives saved by Sturgess' character, who is still in hiding years later.
  5. 75
    On balance, it's a good movie but not a great one. Probably the only reason it's getting North American distribution is because of the involvement of Liam Neeson.
  6. An imperfect but intensely human movie that ponders the aftershock of violence, could have been an exercise in overacted sappiness. Instead, it's as hard and uncompromising as remorse.
  7. A director whose breakthrough was the story of a madman's last stand has exceeded that feat with the story of an angry man's next step.
  8. 70
    Captures the awful intimacy and the grimy, second-rate quality of the Northern Ireland conflict in resonant fashion.
  9. Ultimately, Five Minutes of Heaven is stronger as a whole than its individual parts. It's a well-performed piece that perhaps required a more calibrated hand than Hirschbiegel's proves here.
  10. A forceful Neeson and an even more intense Nesbitt (Bloody Sunday) both show their stuff and obscure the unrelieved pain endured by the men they portray.
  11. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Five Minutes of Heaven’reduces Northern Ireland’s troubles to a gimmick, but it’s an interesting gimmick, and the two men hoisted on its petard work at vivid cross-purposes. If nothing else, the film’s worth seeing as a demonstration of opposing acting techniques.
  12. Based on a true story -- that never happened. That might explain why the film circles and circles its subject but never strikes dramatic pay dirt.
  13. 50
    The production design is spot-on, but Hirschbiegel tries way too hard to create tension, making every occurrence--a record needle dropping, a car door slamming--an unsubtle potential bomb, fraying your nerves like a cheap horror movie.
  14. A feature-length talkathon built on a sketchy premise, some unpersuasive psychology, a pinch of politics and strong star turns from Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, the appeal of all those words runs out long before the director Oliver Hirschbiegel turns off the spigot.
  15. Early scenes set up the tragedy, but the majority of Oliver Hirschbiegel's movie is set in a TV studio where the two eventually face each other, and the tension, unfortunately, quickly becomes stagey.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 10 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Jun 2, 2013
    Tension is perhaps a writer's best friend, reaching out to an audience is a tough task, not everyone will be pleased, but with tension thereTension is perhaps a writer's best friend, reaching out to an audience is a tough task, not everyone will be pleased, but with tension there is always that sense of uncertainty, and where Five Minutes of Heaven succeeds in building tension, through a simple 'handshake' between two men, it also falters in maintaining a fluid story, and not visiting plot points it should have.
    A 17 year-old UVF cell leader known as Alistair Little is about to take the life of Catholic man as a warning to others in the same working environment. What he doesn't anticipate is the younger brother of the victim standing outside, and watching as Little pulls the trigger three times on his brother, then leaving the scene.
    Years later, a reconciliation type event has been set up by a TV company in an attempt to have the now reformed and former prisoner Little (Liam Neeson), who now goes across the globe talking about his experiences and the feeling of killing an individual, and the younger brother Joe Griffin (James Nesbitt), a man who is filled with rage and is flashbacks reveal that he received the blame for his brothers death from his mother.
    The film is then very much what is going through Joe's head as he prepares to meet Little, he wants to kill this man for what he has done, but he also seems greatly frustrated with the position that Little is now in, talking freely and being asked about his experiences all over the world, while he continues to relive in his head what happened on that night all those years ago at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
    James Nesbitt perfectly shows a an who is not only riddled with grief and emotional loss, but also someone so driven by revenge it is perhaps clouding what exactly he wants, he talks quick through nerves, he wants to meet him but doesn't want to meet him. He knows Little killed his brother, but has now lost focus of the fact his brother is dead.
    Liam Neeson's Little is someone who accepts what he is done but now attempts to live his life, by confronting his demons, he is a fallen and sunken man who expects the worse from his meeting with Joe, and also accepts why. Where the film slightly loses its momentum is the official meeting never happening, its understandable what route the writers where taking with this, a personal approach, but there is ultimately a lot of attention surrounding this event that doesn't occur.
    But the film does have perhaps the most sensible and realistic of endings, and while certain other stories like Little's eventual prison sentence and Joe's wife and children could have been better explored, its another touching film on an already publicly explored area.
    Full Review »
  2. DeborahT
    Nov 17, 2009
    This was a powerful film that left me haunted.
  3. JoseC
    Oct 8, 2009
    Great performances,well directed but uneven script.