Five Minutes of Heaven

DRAMA; 1hr 29min

STARRING: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt

Troubled: from left, Neeson and Nesbitt

The fictionalised yet factually based Five Minutes of Heaven begins with the 1975 shooting in Northern Ireland of a young Catholic man by a 17-year-old Protestant British loyalist — a shooting witnessed by the victim’s 11-year-old brother, Joe. Flash forward three decades and the shooter and the boy are middle-aged men (Neeson as Alistair Little, Nesbitt as Joe Griffin), haunted by what happened.


In the interests of a “truth and reconciliation” program, they’ve agreed to meet for a filmed session. But all is not well. Joe, who was severely emotionally damaged by his brother’s death, has a different agenda. The scars of indelible trauma are carved into his fearful physicality and the intensity that Nesbitt brings to it is unnerving. Alistair has not fared better: after 12 years in prison, he has become a global authority on the resolution of conflict but is plagued by lonely, corrosive remorse. In distilling the pain of so many through the suffering of these two, Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s mournful, suspenseful portrait takes point-blank aim at battles nobody can win.