In the Name of the Father

1993, R, 133 min. Directed by Jim Sheridan. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, Don Baker, John Lynch, Corin Redgrave.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., Jan. 21, 1994

Pulse thundering in your head, a backbeat of blood that drowns out reason, the only thought you can form: “This can't be happening!” That's the feeling of Gerry Conlon, rousted from his Belfast home by British authorities, flown to London and unjustly blamed for the IRA bombing of a London pub, tortured into making a false confession, convicted, and imprisoned. And through this extraordinary film by director Sheridan (My Left Foot), we share Conlon's disorientation, shock, stomach in free-fall, lungs knotting until they hold no air. For in relating the true story of Conlon's wrongful conviction and 15-year imprisonment, Sheridan has used the tools of the filmmaker to evoke a visceral echo of Conlon's waking nightmare. Telling a tale naturally shot through with tension – the kind anyone who's stiffened at the sight of a cop car in the rear-view will relate to – Sheridan uses quick cuts, tight shots, and a pounding rock soundtrack (with music by Hendrix, Dylan, and Bono and Gavin Friday) to set a rapid drumming pace our systems absorb: we breathe faster, our blood begins to rush, our muscles wind tighter. If it were only for this sustained physical reaction, Sheridan would have scored an achievement as a thriller, comparable to Alien or The Silence of the Lambs. But In the Name of the Father is more than a massive adrenaline rush. It is an injection into a society at war, Northern Ireland and England in the Seventies (a sequence depicting a street fight between Belfast residents and British troops stunningly realizes the chaos of that world and the hatred firing it), and a compelling account of a son and father making their peace. Conlon's father Guiseppe is also convicted and jailed for the bombing and forced to share a cell with his son. Sheridan makes their coming together as riveting as any street fight or legal battle. The entire cast is inspired. Daniel Day-Lewis's Gerry Conlon is brilliantly realized – a loser, all slumped shoulders and suppressed rage who grows when he comes to see the decency in the father he'd written off as a weakling. Pete Postelthwaite's Guiseppe is a quietly beautiful creation, a man as strong in spirit as he is frail in body. And Emma Thompson blazes as the attorney who finally wins an appeal for the Conlons. She shakes with fury, a fierce angel of righteousness. Conlon's saga seems to have done to them what this movie does: gotten under the skin, into the bloodstream, and made it race.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Jim Sheridan Films
Dream House
Despite an impressive cast and director, Dream House is a confounding mess.

Marc Savlov, Oct. 7, 2011

Brothers
This drama is inferior in practically every way to Danish director Susanne Bier’s original – but now with more U2!

Kimberley Jones, Dec. 11, 2009

More by Robert Faires
Introducing the 2019 Class of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame
Introducing the 2019 Class of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame
The stories behind the art transformers of this year's Hall of Fame inductees

May 24, 2019

"Rosa Nussbaum: Horizonland" at Women & Their Work
The artist draws on her experience as a stranger in a strange land without her own wheels, viewing the world through the lens of a car window

May 24, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

In the Name of the Father, Jim Sheridan, Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, Don Baker, John Lynch, Corin Redgrave

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle