The power of this story is its truth, and it jumps to life with superb acting.
"In the Name of the Father" is Jim Sheridan's fierce view of the arrest, conviction and release of a family and friends who spend fifteen years in a British jail for an I.R.A. bombing they did not cause. It is 1974, and Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an aimless troublemaker with a penchant for easy theft and disappointing his father.
Gerry is spotted on a rooftop by British soldiers as he brandishes a pipe while stealing roof tiles. His is the profile of a terrorist, and that's enough. The chase and capture are carried out against the street sounds of war in a vivid opening sequence that powers the film with a chilling pace and lifts it above other chronicles of miscarried justice and innocent victims.
As happens in free countries in troubled times, Britain has suspended the rule of law with the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In yet another case of a benificent purpose gone awry, the police use their new freedom to build a fraudulent case around Gerry.
Seized by soldiers, the angry young man is brutalized by the police until he signs a confession that is a lie. Friends and family are rounded up and imprisoned on conspiracy charges brought by a group of police and detectives who revel in sanctioned cruelty under the leadership of Detective Mister Dixon (Colin Redgrave). When he wants something, he will get it, and he wants convictions of the Guildford Four for this bombing of an Irish pub.
When the police have garnered their headlines by putting the innocent band in jail, the movie shifts to the story of the Conlons, father and son, Gerry and Giuseppe, who by now share the same cell, an enforced closeness for the continuation of their fractious misunderstanding of each other. As Giuseppe grows weak in unattended illness, Gerry grows from feckless youth to moral leadership as he begins to see police, prison and injustice through the lens of his father's decency.
The power of this story is its truth, and it jumps to life with superb acting. Daniel Day-Lewis proves again that his versatility is apparently boundless; he is utterly believable. Pete Postlethwait is a moving portrait of love and loyalty to a wayward son, a man who lives his principles unyieldingly every minute of the day, in this case in stark example for the son who is imprisoned at his side. Marie Jones conveys beautifully the despair of a wife and mother who cannot help her family. Emma Thompson is effective in a small role of the earnest defender determined to uncover the deception.
Jim Sheridan gives us a wrenching reminder that expediency in the hands of the police exacts a terrible price. Our only protection from them, it seems, is to wrap them tightly in the rituals of human rights.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 475
Studio: Universal Studios
Copyright (c) Illusion
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