Five minutes in heaven

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Back in the 70s, Northern Ireland was a frightening place to live in. When meat eating Caucasian males fight each other, any place can get scary.

Five minutes of Heaven is a story of two men that began in 1975 at a town called Lurgan in Northern Ireland. It was a bloody time, with the Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the opposing Protestant, British loyalist Ulster Voluntary Force (UVF) locked in an endless cycle of killings and revenge killings, while Britain forced its authority on it, to prevent it from seceding from the UK.

Alistair Little, 17, (played by Mark Davison) is the leader of a UVF cell, eager to prove himself, make his bones, within the ranks of the UVF. He and his gang are given the go-ahead to kill a young Catholic man, James Griffin, as a reprisal and a warning to other Catholics. Little, his face hidden inside a black ski mask, walks up to the house of James Griffin and shoots him dead from the street, through his front room window.

As he turns to leave, he notices a little boy on the sidewalk just a few feet away. 8 year old Joe Griffin had been playing alone with a soccer ball, hitting it against the wall of the building. The boy had crouched at the moment of the shot, to recover the ball from under a parked car and therefore had gone unnoticed.

The killer, Alistair Little, played as an adult by Liam Neeson, and the little boy, played in adulthood with astonishing panache by James Nesbitt, stare at each other for a moment. The boy has horror on his face while on 17 year old Little, there is hesitation. For a brief moment, the boy’s life hangs in balance and then the moment passes. Little spares the boy, wheels around and leaves. Later on he is arrested and serves 12 years in prison.

Thirty-three years after the murder, Little and Griffin have been set up to meet on camera by a reconciliation project. Little has served his sentence and peace has descended on Northern Ireland.

But Joe Griffin is not coming on the program for a handshake. He is carrying a knife to avenge his brother’s killing. Does he get his vengeance? Or do they meet and reconcile in the end?……

I’d love to tell you what happened next but that’d spoil your fun. A beautiful and gripping tale. Though I’m a Liam Neeson fan, he was lackluster in my opinion. Truly amazing was James Nesbitt as Joe Griffin and the young Alistair Little, Mark Davison. The Irish accent is really cute. Like they have a ball of cotton inside their mouths.

The movie has a ‘made-for-TV’ feel and I love those no-frills pieces of work.

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