Totally innocent, Conlon is treated with contempt - even physically tortured and terrorized until he confesses only to make the torture stop.
Soon his father and most of his family are also convicted of bomb making and being part of larger conspiracies including being deeply entrenched in the IRA.
His father Giuseppe (played masterfully by Pete Postlethwaite) and most of his family are also rounded up and promptly convicted - from the youngest cousin to an elderly grandmother - all wrongly convicted and sent to bleak, dank prisons for very lengthy terms.
What makes this so compelling and tragic is that this is entirely a true story. Conlon really served 15 years in prison and thanks to his diligent attorney and the discovery of withheld evidence that freed him in 1989 - otherwise he may well still be languishing in jail, with little sympathy from the outside.
The only good side of this horrific twist of justice was the closeness Gerry ends up having with his father. Once somewhat distant, they find themselves as unwilling cellmates in prison. As miserable as they both are at the situation, the fact that they can keep each other company is a bittersweet comfort.
They grow closer than they likely would have ever gotten had they not been imprisoned together. Compounded by age and the damp, awful conditions of the prison, Giuseppe finds himself sicker and sicker until he is finally taken to the hospital all too late.Read more ›
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.
I literally wanted to throw my shoe through the TV out of frustration for the lead characters involved. Whate made it more frustrating, the fact it was based on a true story.
The movie caught the times of Belfast in the 70's when the violent Troubles began in the conflict. It's completely biased for the lead character but, it was his story and amazingly told. The entire way through the movie you were right there with him and cheering all the way.
I highly recommend this movie, but I also state that it is easy to get caught up in its emotions.