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  • This is the sort of movie that would be dismissed as being implausible if it was pure fiction, but this tale of modern heroism is only slightly fictionalised. Joan Allen plays a thinly disguised version of Veronica Guerin (pron: GEER-in), an Irish journalist killed by the drug barons she fearlessly challenged.

    In some ways the film's greatest asset is it's honesty: it's as uninhibited about tackling the issues involved as Guerin herself was: it doesn't pull any punches in criticising the irish government and police force's timid efforts to deal with the heroin epidemic in Dublin. It doesn't flinch from the fact that Guerin used some wildly unorthodox methods to tackle the drug barons. Also, like John Boorman's far more stylish _The General_, it shows that the Irish police aren't above colluding with terrorists in the drugs war.

    In other ways, the film presents often gratingly hackneyed images and some wildly implausible scenes. The Drug baron's hoods are clearly based on the bad guys in Donald Duck cartoons, drinking champagne in Jacuzzis, while the newspaper office is apparenly modelled on _His Girl Friday_. Also, kids are seen shooting up Smack in Dublin streets IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, and no character bats an eyelid. The problem of using sexy Hollywood actresses to repressent real people rears it's finely embrocated head, particularly when Joan Allen is sexually approaced by several hoodlums. The movie also makes the world of Irish journalism and law enforcement seem more misogynistic than they really are.

    These are minor quibbles, though. This, for all its flaws and low budget is a truly inspiring film, a film that shows that heroism is still possible and a welcome antidote to the "ironic" designer nihilism of much contemporary US and British crime cinema.
  • Based on the life and shocking murder of real Irish crime reporter, Veronica Guerin, Joan Allen gives a solid performance as gutsy Sunday Globe hack Sinead Hamilton.

    John Mackenzie's film remains largely faithful to its real life inspiration's story and does not hold back on the brutality of the Dublin underworld. Nothing is spared from the slaying of Pete Postlethwaite's Martin Cahill style character Shaughnessy to the chilling death of a young heroin addict in a Dublin nightclub. Funded by Rupert Murdoch's Sky Movies channel in the UK, the movie sometimes struggles to overcome its tight budget and the made for television feel. However in 'The Long Good Friday' director's capable hands, it often succeeds particularly with a spectacular car chase through the centre of Dublin.

    Where the film really scores is in its supporting performances - most notably, Jimmy Smallhorne as Hamilton's underworld confidante, Ruairi Conroy as a heroin addict, Liam Cunningham and Postlethwaite as old school crooks and particularly, Gerard Flynn as Hamilton's nemesis Hackett and Gavin Kielty as the skinhead, Tattoo. Mackenzie also somehow manages to wring out decent performances from Patrick Bergin as the frustrated cop, Mackey and Jason Barry as his partner.

    If there are drawbacks it is the flatness of the relationship between Hamilton and her husband (Kevin McNally) - oddly reminiscent of the relationship between Lacey and her husband in Cagney and Lacey. The newspaper scenes are also a bit hackneyed - bearing little resemblance to real life newsrooms.

    A superior film to Dublin crime pics, Ordinary Decent Criminal and The Vicious Circle, it still falls short of the visual, narrative and performing heights of John Boorman's The General. Nevertheless, When the Sky Falls is still good entertainment and one of the more honest biopics you are likely to see in cinemas this year. It will be interesting to see how this film travels beyond Ireland where Guerin's death caused so much outrage.
  • From the opening scenes this film brought back the memories of shocking headlines from the recent past through which we have lived. Fictionalised maybe, but very close to the reality. Each scene struck home. These were our headlines. This was Dublin in the grip of drug barons. This is how it was. A wonderful cast brought it all to life again. If I have a minus note it is that the names were changed. I wonder why, but I suppose there may have been legal reasons. We in Dublin know the real names. The criminlas are now behind bars. This is a story of our time. It should be compulsory viewing for all. For the lawless that they be warned. For the lawful that they may never forget. It was a great American who said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance!
  • gforth27 January 2004
    Having watched this *after* seeing the more recent Veronica Guerin (2003), I can only say: don't bother with this one if you want the real story. While this is an interesting story, they must have been hampered by lawyers as it uses precisely no real names and leaves you wondering if it was all made up. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it) it wasn't made up, but see Cate Blanchett playing Guerin for real and you'll get a much better idea of what happened.
  • Journalists in films are cliches . They`re always shown as crusaders setting the world to right whatever the cost to themselves . This is a totally cliched portrayal as some of the worst vermin breathing are journalists , many of whom are driven by greed and ego and will print absolutely anything to sell newspapers , they`re not too bothered what they print just as long as it it ties in with a misguided editorial line and sells a few more copies , and that`s the problem I had with WHEN THE SKY FALLS , its heroine Sinead Hamilton is shown trying to take on Dublin`s drug dealers almost single handed .

    I also had a problem with the black and white characterisation , everyone is either a nasty piece of work or a victim , the exception being MacKay played very well by Patrick Bergin who`s a sort of Dublin equvilent of Jack Regan or Frank Burnside who`s not below bending the rules to get results . He`s by far the most interesting character in a film that suffers from a rather shaky view of drugs . Smack addicts are shown to be hapless victims at the mercy of their dealers , but is this actually true ? I was under the impression that many addicts also sell drugs in real life in order to pay for their addiction , not as shown here selling paintings to tourists . And there`s no real attempt to address the wider issues of drugs and what to do about the problem in this film . As one reviewer has touched upon WHEN THE SKY FALLS tries to be a straightforward thriller and a socially aware film at the same time and by doing so it fails in trying two things at once.

    WHEN THE SKY FALLS isn`t a bad film , in fact it was probably the best one I saw that night , but the other movies I saw were THE MUMMY RETURNS , SPECIES 2 and CODE RED so the competition wasn`t up to much . Hopefully next time someone makes a film dealing with drugs they might like to take the unpopular view that people volunteer to become addicts , a point TRAINSPOTTING made very well
  • 'When The Sky Falls' is one of those violent, hard-hitting films that the UK does so well on TV. And indeed this feels like it should have been a 4-hour miniseries, not a 2-hour film. The subject matter is fascinating, the acting excellent and the themes raised very potent.

    Problem is, 'When The Sky Falls' can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a straight thriller, a celebration of one woman's triumph or an examination of the aftermath (or continuation) of the Troubles in Ireland. Given a longer duration it could deal with all the matters effectively, not leave the viewer gasping for breath as he tries to unravel all the various elements of the complex plot. The film is also cursed with the kind of weak, rather dull ending often associated with 'true-life' movies; and the sickening violence seems somehow out of place in so serious a project.

    All this aside, 'When The Sky Falls' is a gripping, intriguing piece of drama; it's just not half the film it could have been.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Watched this by chance on late TV one night and found it very gritty and far more realistic than the already seen Cate Blanchett version of Veronica Guerin. The cast were a lot more 'Irish' looking and the script wasn't so Americanized. The whole pace of the movie and the sets were good too. Patrick Bergin is another brilliant Irish actor and is not in nearly enough Irish films about Ireland. The social scene, nightclubs and all were all bang on and I liked the pace of the film as well. The film didn't receive nearly enough recognition for it's stark look into Irish drug culture and to how low people will stoop to get their fix. Anyone who's seen Veronica Guerin would do well to give this a look......
  • boylefilms5 April 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    This movie has great potential, and is in itself a fairly good piece, however, the one main flaw with this movie is the end. For anyone who's seen it, i'm sure you would agree, that the end is far to abrupt and leaves the viewer with little to no resolution. I'm not sure if it was the filmmakers intent to make it thus to forward a point, but personally i think it would have been better to at least have some sort of montage showing the resolutions to all her actions like the convictions of the various gangsters, instead of a small paragraph saying 'they' were arrested or whatever. (this is just to fill up space so don't bother reading this thanks)
  • blanche-22 September 2001
    The name Joan Allen, so often associated with high quality, is used to attract innocent video renters to this film. They will be disappointed. What is alleged to be the story of a brave Irish journalist is instead a two-part mystery: a) why did Joan Allen agree to do this film? and b) what were all those people with thick brogues saying? Not only was a good deal of the dialogue unintelligible, but the film seemed like it began in the middle of the story, which was disconcerting - among so much that was disconcerting. A very dissipated Patrick Bergin, a long way from Sleeping with the Enemy, plays a frustrated cop. There's enough graphic violence, swearing with Irish brogues and skeevy looking characters to make three more films. No, thanks, one was MORE than enough.