Films & Schedules

  • Fifty Dead Men Walking

  • Kari Skogland

United Kingdom/Canada
118 minutes

Production Company:
Brightlight Pictures/Future Films
Executive Producer:
Stephen Margolis, Guy Collins, Michael Ryan, Nicole Carmen-Davis, Karyn Edwards, Kyle Lundberg, Cindy Cowan, Elsie Choi
Peter La Terriere, Kari Skogland, Stephen Hegyes, Shawn Williamson
Kari Skogland, inspired by the book by Martin McGartland and Nicholas Davies
Production Designer:
Eve Stewart
Jonathan Freeman
Jim Munro
Mervyn Moore
Ben Mink
Principal Cast: Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess, Kevin Zegers, Nathalie Press, Rose McGowan

Canadian Distributor:
TVA Films
International Sales Agent:
Handmade Films International

Wednesday September 1009:30PM ROY THOMSON HALL Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Thursday September 1109:00AM RYERSON Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Jim Sturgess (dynamic in last year's Across the Universe) turns in a star-making performance opposite Ben Kingsley in Fifty Dead Men Walking, a sweeping political thriller that gives a face to what Northern Ireland wryly calls “the Troubles.” Directed by Kari Skogland with grit, precision and a focus on the human drama, this widescreen story highlights the personal toll wrought by the larger civil conflict. Martin (Sturgess) is a small-time Belfast hustler working in the late eighties. Part of a tight group of mates, he's more concerned with regular pub attendance and easing his way through British military checkpoints than with the reasons the checkpoints stand there in the first place.

As such, he makes a prime target for British intelligence. Recruited by a complex, wily agent (Kingsley), Martin starts feeding information about Irish Republican Army activities to the British. With every success, he intensifies the danger posed to himself and his family. The IRA is shown to be ruthless in its retribution; once an infiltrator has been found out, he becomes a “dead man walking.”

With full encouragement from the British military, Martin winds himself into an impossible position. His girlfriend (Nathalie Press) pleads with him to come clean about his covert status, understandably terrified of what such dirty work could mean for their safety. But Martin is already in far deeper than he can manage, and the grip of his relationship with Kingsley's agent is both hard to shake and secretly comforting.

Inspired by Martin McGartland and Nicholas Davies's book, Skogland captures the character of Northern Ireland in the eighties with great sensitivity, reflecting both the despair of the situation and the resolve produced. This is a thriller, and she keeps the momentum racing. But at the heart of this film stand interconnecting relationships. To watch Martin battle over life-and-death matters with his handler is to understand, on a profound level, how this was the most personal of wars. The real Martin McGartland claims that the information he passed to the British saved at least fifty lives. He is still in hiding.

Kari Skogland was born in Ottawa and started her career working on commercials and music videos. She went on to direct many television films and series, and was nominated for two Gemini awards for directing episodes of Traders and The Eleventh Hour. She made her feature directorial debut with The Size of Watermelons (96). Her other films include Men with Guns (97), the television feature White Lies (98), Liberty Stands Still (02), Chicks with Sticks (04), The Stone Angel (07) and Fifty Dead Men Walking(08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award