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Review: 'Five Minutes of Heaven'

Two men face their past three decades after the violence of the Troubles links their lives.

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So many movies set in Northern Ireland are about the Troubles that we might justifiably ask, why another? "Five Minutes of Heaven" is far from the best of the breed, but it does at least take a new tack. It's about the confrontation between two men on opposite sides of the agony 33 years after the violence that linked their lives.

Alistair (Mark Davison) is 17 in 1975 and already a soldier in the pro-England Protestant underground in his hometown of Lurgan. He carries out the assassination of a Catholic local in full view of the man's terrified, younger preteen brother Joe (Kevin O'Neill), whom he decides to spare.

The aftermath of this horror is that Alistair, having spent 12 years in prison, has repented and made a large career for himself as a conflict resolution expert. Joe, meanwhile, has a wife and two young daughters and still lives in Lurgan. A factory laborer, he seethes with anger at how his life has been ripped apart by Alistair.

Since Alistair is played as an adult by Liam Neeson, and Joe by James Nesbitt, the contrast between the two is stark. Neeson carries his gravitas like a heavy winter coat while Nesbitt, who is best remembered for his work in the Troubles-themed "Bloody Sunday," is a live wire. Both actors are from Northern Ireland, and you can see in their intensity – or in the case of Nesbitt, his overintensity – how much this story means to them.

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