A present day and weary PSNI Detective (Colm Meaney), who has witnessed violence in Belfast from both sides of the ceasefire, finds himself investigating a string of murders whose victims are ex-republican activists.
Director and writer Nathan Todd deals the very powerful, delicate and personal subject matter. The transition that Belfast has made in the last fifteen years seen through the eyes of the older generation who are haunted by the nightmare of violence they witnessed since the late 1960s. While to the younger generation the same violence is more like quickly fading dream; instead they look forward to a brighter future. Todd takes a strong Nationalistic view without in any way applauding the history of violence Belfast had endured. Ironically he takes this view with some very slickly directed scenes of violence as balaclava’d men hunt down the ex-republican activists which in turn alarms the PSNI into believing that the old violence is erupting once more.
This could and should have been a very forceful and emotive story but there are a number of elements that let the film down. Perhaps Todd was too close to the subject matter? The dialogue was unnatural and full of exposition as characters constantly philosophised and told us what they are feeling; almost asking us for a justification of their existences. While Colm Meaney played the weary detective well though it almost seemed that some of the other actors were not quite as experienced. The small amount of background score turned what should have been a grim and reflective tone in to a flat an unappealing one.
Perhaps this could have worked better if it has been given a bit more time and perhaps made for television. Take the recent set-in-Belfast series “The Fall” which takes the same slow pace as “A Belfast Story” but by not making the above mistakes manages to be completely engrossing.
A Belfast Story opens in Ireland on the 20th September