ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  joel schumacher

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  98 minutes

RELEASED  -  17 october 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  touchstone

OFFICIAL SITE  -  veronica guerin

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $17,000,000
veronica guerin - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from veronica guerin at

buy the dvd from veronica guerin at

an irish journalist is assassinated by drug dealers she wrote about in a series of stories.

once titled, "chasing the dragon: the veronica guerin story."


picture from veronica guerin

picture from veronica guerin

picture from veronica guerin


three out of four possible stars

As a true-life biography, Veronica Guerin will not knock your socks off with a story that's full of twists and turns. But as a dramatic piece of storytelling about a life whose extinguishing needed to be told, the cast and crew of this film can rest easy, knowing that their creation will allow the important memory of Veronica Guerin's life to endure. Cate Blanchett's performance is strong, intelligent, and moving, and when the story-line of the film is weak, viewers can count on her performance as the instrument to keep interest alive in the film. The story itself is a harrowing one, but biographical films can often turn out more like a history lesson than a dramatic piece of cinema, and Veronica Guerin seems to succeed about seventy-five percent of the time in that area.

Although native Irish citizens might balk at the less-than-Irish cast (Blanchett is from Australia, director Schumacher is from America, one of the writers is from Queens), it's impossible to fault Blanchett on her spot-on accent, and as much of the supporting cast (and probably much of the crew) is Irish, the picture is more of an international effort than a wholly Irish production.

An aspect which the filmmakers seem to have excelled in is the editing together of the piece. Though the story itself is not exactly ground-breaking (since it was based on such well-known actual events, only so much tampering would have been permissible), the combination of Blanchett's quick-witted performance and a style of editing that keeps the picture moving at a good clip allows the weaker points of the story to pass by rather quickly. Given the fact that the screenwriters were dealing with real events and since the length of the film is not an issue (the American release clocks in at quick and tidy ninety-two minutes), it's difficult to criticize the film on its predictable dramatic flow.

Indeed, Blanchett's captivating performance would hold the audience whether the film was entirely predictable or not. And the purpose of this film probably isn't to surprise the viewer with plot twists. It's more in the vein of creating a vivid document of a shocking story whose remembrance will ensure that the future does not contain similar incidents. At the very least it should cause life insurance rates for journalists to increase. Or rates for journalists who insist on putting themselves and their families in such violent danger.

The fact that Veronica Guerin the woman put herself in what amounted to mortal danger when she began investigating Dublin drug trafficking is admirable. That she was committed to her cause even through death threats and physical harm before her murder shows that Guerin was a brave soul indeed. But where viewers might falter in their admiration is in her persistence beyond the point when it was not just herself who was placed in danger by her actions. With the lives of her husband, child, and mother also put on the line, it must have been a difficult task to make Guerin sympathetic enough to earn audience respect.

The screenwriters seem to have accomplished this by making Guerin so virtuous a woman in all other respects that her devotion to her job and the danger in which she placed her family became something she was unable to stop. The phrase, "I don't want to do it, I have to do it," is a very important idea for Guerin to discuss, because it makes the case more sound that Guerin couldn't have stopped the violence from happening even if she had wanted to. And it is doubtless the production has benefited from Blanchett's involvement. Her ability to create sympathy where sometimes there should have been none is impressive.

And the cast that accompanies her should be lauded as well, particularly Ciarán Hinds, the North Ireland born actor who plays informant "John Traynor." Walking a thin line between viciousness and cooperation, Hinds inhabits the role fully and creates a worthy adversary to Blanchett's demanding character. And Gerard McSorley, another actor who hails originally from North Ireland, plays the role of drug kingpin "John Gilligan" with such menace that it's difficult to believe the man is only acting. Every one of the more minor roles is impressive as well with Colin Farrell making an entertaining cameo as a tattooed football fan.

Veronica Guerin is a beautiful yet gritty film, displaying both the beauty of the Irish countryside and the desolation of Dublin's slums. The soundtrack is suitably emotional, but it never treads overbearingly on moments when the cast should have full reign on the audience's emotions. The point of the film is not to wow the audience with a plot riddled with red-herrings and plot-twists, even though it's the story of an investigative reporter (whose job, by nature, is full of both). This film's existence is a worthy document to commemorate the life of a very brave woman and should allow her memory to inspire those in the future who would put their lives in danger to save the lives of others.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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