Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critics What's this?

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Universal acclaim- based on 9 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Lurgan Northern Ireland, 1975. A low level civil war has been underway, with the IRA targeting British loyalists and the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force exacting revenge on Catholics they claim are militant republicans. Alistair Little, 16 is the leader of a UVF cell, eager to be blooded. He and his gang are given the go ahead to kill a young Catholic man, James Griffin, as a reprisal and a warning to others. When the hit is carried out, Joe Griffin - the 11-year old little brother of the target - watches in horror his brother is shot in the head. Thirty years later Joe Griffin and Alistair are to meet, on camera, with a view to reconciliation. Alistair has served his sentence, and Peace may been agreed in N. Ireland, but unbeknownst to the production team, Joe Griffin, is not coming on the program for a handshake but to stick a knife in his brother's killer - live on air. (IFC Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 15
  2. Negative: 1 out of 15
  1. 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.
  2. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Powerhouse performances by Liam Neeson and James Nesbit make this an intense, ultimately moving tale.
  3. 75
    The title of the overlong Fifty Dead Men Walking refers to lives saved by Sturgess' character, who is still in hiding years later.
  4. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    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.
  5. 70
    Captures the awful intimacy and the grimy, second-rate quality of the Northern Ireland conflict in resonant fashion.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

See all 15 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. DeborahT
    Nov 17, 2009
    This was a powerful film that left me haunted.
  2. JoseC
    Oct 8, 2009
    Great performances,well directed but uneven script.
  3. 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 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.