This film is based on a true story, specifically the autobiography of Gerry Conlon. The book was converted into a film by director Jim Sheridan, also well known for his modern film "In America". The film was made by a British studio, but retains a Hollywood level of quality. The end product was well received by critics, resulting in seven Academy Award nominations, but unfortunately no wins.
The film starts out by introducing us to the character of Gerry Conlon. He is a young adult Irishman living in the 1970s and taking a vacation in London when disaster strikes. A pub is bombed by IRA terrorists, while Gerry is roaming around town, but he ends up getting arrested and accused of the crime.
With an unsavory reputation and no alibi, Gerry is convicted after the police threaten his family and coerce him into making a confession. The police even arrest his family and accuse them of aiding a terrorist, throwing both Gerry and his father into prison. There, they work aggressively to prove their innocence, enlisting a lawyer named Gareth Peirce to help them in that effort.
Gerry is by no means a totally innocent man, since he is shown breaking into a house and committing other minor acts of mischief. However, he is certainly no terrorist and does not even appear to have any affiliation with the IRA. He is portrayed as a man who loves his family and parents, but fails to take on a positive direction in life, choosing instead to carouse around with friends and commit minor crimes.
The main character of Gerry Conlon is played by Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his many impressive roles. His father, Giuseppe, is played by Pete Postlethwaite, and his friends Danny and Tommo are played by Anthony Brophy and Frankie McCafferty, respectively. Other important characters include his attorney, played by Emma Thompson, and the IRA terrorist Joe McAndrew, who is played by Don Baker.
The acting in this film is nothing short of fantastic. Daniel Day-Lewis truly shines in his role, showing true emotion during the interrogation scene. He magically transforms from a tough, but immature Irish punk into a broken down man in tears in a very realistic manner. I was also very impressed by Pete Postlethwaite, who gives a moving performance as Gerry's father, and Don Baker, who gives a chilling performance as the IRA terrorist.
This film is a serious drama, and is not a very happy film. It revolves around the depressing topic of wrongful imprisonment as well as police corruption and brutality. Although the conflict between the Irish and British is a violent one, it certainly does not warrant the horrific treatment of innocent people that we see here. One can only hope that it does not still happen today.
All of the film takes place in England and Ireland, mostly in the cities of Belfast and London. However, the vast majority of the film takes place in prison and other indoor areas, which don't lend us much of a view. However, this does not prevent the film from having some great sets, which include the massive courtroom that Conlon's trial takes place in.
This film, although mostly non-violent, does feature some disturbing scenes. The worst such scene takes place in the prison when Joe McAndrew lights a guard on fire merely because he is British. Other disturbing scenes include the interrogation scene, which is more verbally disturbing than physically. At the beginning of the film, there is a street fight between British soldiers and civilians in Belfast as well.
Overall, I was very impressed with this film. It is a heart-wrenching story and serves as a tribute to a man who lost much of his life due to the cruelty of the British police and legal system. If you have the chance to watch it, I highly recommend it.