Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time!
Empire's Guardians Of The Galaxy Cover
Does Star Wars Have A Brain Trust?
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: 6 Issues For £15!
Subscribe today and save 37% off the cover price!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Jim Sturgess
Sir Ben Kingsley
Nathalie Press
Kevin Zegers.
Directors
Kari Skogland.
Screenwriters
Kari Skogland.
Running Time
117 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Purge: Anarchy, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Northwest
4 Star Empire Rating
Who Is Dayani Cristal?
3 Star Empire Rating
Lady From Shanghai, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Earth To Echo
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Calvary
5 Star Empire Rating

50 Dead Men Walking
Pssst... Jim Sturgess shines as an IRA informer, pass it on...


submit to reddit


Plot
Belfast, 1987. Whippersnapper Martin McGartland (Sturgess) is recruited by English copper ‘Fergus’ (Kingsley) to infiltrate the IRA and act as a ‘tout’, or informer. As McGartland moves up the chain of command, the stakes get higher — and his exit strategy becomes harder to plan.


Review
50 Dead Men Walking

It’s hard to get your head around precisely how perilous Martin McGartland’s daily life was while informing on the IRA during the peak of the Troubles. Or rather, it’s hard for most of us to imagine even why anyone would ever put themselves in such extreme jeopardy, especially as McGartland (or the McGartland of Kari Skogland’s script, at least) wasn’t even that fond of the British. He’s evidently a smart man — he must have realised there was a high chance he’d have to one day lead his life in hiding, which is precisely what happened. And not entirely in hiding, either: Kari Skogland’s adaptation of McGartland’s memoir opens with a brutal jolt as an older, twitchier McGartland is suddenly perforated at close range by a pistol-wielding assassin — the story playing out in flashback as blood gushes over his car seat.
 
It would have been tough for any actor to ‘sell’ the willing tout to us while also retaining the ambivalence required to stop his character’s ascension into cheesy, uninteresting heroism. (Besides, there are many still out there for whom McGartland is the antithesis of hero.) It’s for this reason that Fifty Dead Men Walking is, above all, Jim Sturgess’ movie, and proof that the London-born 27 year-old has the grit and complexity to surpass his cuteness — something he couldn’t show us in his last lead role, in casino rip-off caper 21.
 
After we’re bludgeoned by the framing device, Sturgess’ McGartland is introduced as a mulleted wideboy, flogging ripped-off clothes and trash-talking the soldiers who patrol his streets. But every step of the character's evolution — nurtured by handler Fergus (Sir Ben Kingsley, whose wig and Northern accent are initally distracting) — is taken by Sturgess with conviction and smooth naturalism. It’s just a shame that Skogland herself isn’t as confident, filling the screen with ‘helpful’ captions that name various players — even in the news footage of the likes of Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley! Such spoonfeeding softens the dramatic blows, suggesting Skogland doesn’t trust her audience to follow what’s going on, when it’s the movie’s emotional heft, rather than its presentation of the facts, that should give it the requisite power.

[We have been contacted directly by Martin McGartland who has asked us to clarify a number of points in relation to the film "Fifty Dead Men Walking" [which we reviewed in our May edition / above and] which was referred to in our interview with Jim Sturgess in our April edition.

Mr McGartland has asked us to make it clear that he does not endorse the film, which was only inspired by his book of the same name, rather than an adaption of it.  He has also referred us to the disclaimers at the beginning and the end of the film which read as follows:

"This film is inspired by the book "fifty dead men walking" written by Martin McGartland and Nicholas Davies. Some of the events, characters and scenes in the film have been changed. Martin McGartland and Nicholas Davies are the joint authors of the book "fifty dead men walking"." The screenplay to the film is inspired by the book although many aspects and characters have been changed, the screenplay was not written or approved by Martin McGartland or Nicholas Davies and is not a reproduction or adaptation of the book or any substantial part of it.]


Verdict
Think Donnie Brasco, with the IRA instead of the Mafia. Jim Sturgess dominates with a star-making turn, although some stylistic slip-ups let him down a little.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for 50 Dead Men Walking
Empire Star Rating

Facts vs fiction aside it's quite a good watch . Jim Sturgess carried the film, but apart from him the accents are all over the place. I'm sure there are plenty of N.Irish actors who would've been more than capable in some of the leading roles. Kevin Zegers though was surprisingly good, didn't recognise him at first. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mrkensingtonmews at 22:06, 05 August 2010 | Report This Post


One reason not to watch it.

Kari Skogland has written and directed this movie and yet she is Canadian. Being an Irish man who grew up through this dark period of our history, it annoys me that people think they can recreate this on screen when they are not even from the North of Ireland. People from the Republic of Ireland would not be able to give it justice either Really needed to be there first hand. No Good ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Seamus. Pat. at 16:38, 15 October 2009 | Report This Post


Slow At First But Kept On Going.

Picked this up and watched it last night, feeling a bit annoyed that it started very slowly but it kept on going to the final few moments. Everyone played their parts well though some of them are Americans and they are playing Irish people, that I couldn't understand why but meh. It's okay, not what some people say a masterpiece or brilliant stuff but it's worth watching. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 14:44, 25 August 2009 | Report This Post


50 dead men walking.

im sorry but this movie is very good. Im from Belfast and im only starting to learn about the troubles and this is a fanastic piece of info. This brings the harsh reality of what these so called 'Touts' did. Jim Sturgess is fanastic in this and his acting is first class in this. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by KerrBear44 at 23:59, 15 August 2009 | Report This Post


Fifty Dead Men Walking

This film is not as interesting as some of the reviews would have you believe. It is pretty standard stuff, and feels more like a TV drama than a film than shouldve ended up on the big screen. A bit dull and repetitive ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 17:15, 17 April 2009 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Director Matt Reeves Spills Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Secrets
What we learned from our Empire podcast spoiler special

Peter Fonda On Peter Fonda
The Hollywood legend relives his career highlights

Kevin Feige Talks Ant-Man, Guardians Of The Galaxy And Doctor Strange
The Marvel boss updates us on the state of his cinematic universe

Keith Carradine On Keith Carradine
'Television is really the place to go if you want to do anything of substance now.'

Video: Gary Oldman And Keri Russell Talk Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Would you watch Carry On Up The Planet Of The Apes?

Director Charlie Siskel On Finding Vivian Maier: 'To Me, This Is A Great Detective Story'
The filmmaker discusses the process of unravelling the Maier mystery

Secret Cinema: Inside Story
The phenomenon’s creator, Fabien Riggall, gives us the skinny

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)