By Scott Weinberg (reprint from Sundance Film Festival 2009)
The latest film from Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel is a simple, straightforward, and very sincere story that covers some rather fascinating issues: The cyclical nature of violence, the difficulties inherent in forgiveness, and the importance of being able to defeat tragedy and go on to live a happy life. If it sounds like a dark and slightly depressing story to hear, well that's the good news. For all its stark honesty and confrontational emotions, the messages found in Five Minutes of Heaven are refreshingly humane and hopeful.
We open in mid-'70s Belfast, and a very young Alistair Little is about to commit a heinous act. Fueled by streetwise fury and a need to prove himself, Alistair assassinates another young man, leaving his little brother as the horrified witness to the act. Poor Joe Griffen has just began a cycle of tragedy that would defeat most people: Dead brother, accusing mother, heartbroken father ... one act of horrible violence leads to a ripple effect that virtually destroys Joe's life.