During a spate of IRA-triggered bombings in the early 1970s in the UK, the beleaguered British government created a haphazard "Prevention of Terrorism Act" which allowed the arrest of any individual on the flimsiest of suspicions. When explosions rocked two pubs in Guildford (London?) a group of four Irish junkies -- Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day Lewis) and three others -- were wrongfully arrested in what we are led to believe was a miscarriage of justice.
The movie is based on Gerry's memoirs, so it cannot be passed off as impeccably "factual" but if some memories have been bent into formulaic shape for entertainment purposes, the truth still remains: these people were not murdering masterminds.
There are really two stories working in the film:
(1) The steamrolling of the "Guildford Four" by the British government; and
(2) The atavistic relationship between Gerry and his father Guiseppe while the two were in prison
Each of these stories would have made a taut and fascinating film by itself, but combined they are an incredible force. Gerry's interrogation is an immemorable moment in cinematic history, including disconcerting scenes of police officials watching the torture in silence.
The movie doesn't let up for a moment. The courtroom drama is clearly peripheral to the theme, but it provides some of the film's best moments. While some of the scenes in the latter half of the movie may seem a bit redundant (similar things happening over and over again in the prison life) all that is obscured by the sheer screen presence of Daniel Day Lewis. In fact, the only time you are not riveted by the all-round powerhouse acting is when U2's poignant background score has taken center stage.
An absolute must for fans of political films, and a terrific drama for the rest of us. I highly recommend it.