Veronica Guerin was a fearless Irish journalist about whose life a movie was released in the UK on 1st August, 2003. This is not the first time that Guerin's extraordinary battle against the Dublin drug lords has been portrayed on celluloid. In 2000, John Mackenzie's When the Sky Falls was given a limited theatrical release.
Guerin was an intrepid investigative reporter whose "daring coverage of Dublin’s criminal underworld exposed corruption, angered organized crime figures and led to her eventual assassination" in 1996. Born in 1958, she joined the Sunday Independent in 1994 where she established herself as an investigative journalist of repute. In that year she began to investigate the Dublin underworld especially John Gilligan, a noted drug dealer. Moved by the sight of children playing with abandoned hypodermic syringes, Guerin pursued Gilligan and the other drug dealers (in her articles she always referred to them using pseudonyms to escape tough Irish libel laws} and pushers who frequently put her own life at risk.
She was repeatedly attacked for her exposes. Her house was attacked in 1994 and she was shot in the thigh in 1995 and eventually beaten up by Gilligan when she went to interview him at his home. After this attack, she was given police protection, but she dispensed with them on the ground that it hampered effective investigation. Eventually she was shot dead by two masked gunmen on a Dublin highway on June 26, 1996. Her death caused a national outrage, and led to a change in the laws for drug crimes. John Gilligan was acquitted of her murder in 2000 but is serving a 28 year prison sentence for drug trafficking. Guerin was 37 at the time of her death, and had a 6 year old son, Cathal.
In the movie of the same name, Guerin is played by a remarkably convincing Cate Blanchett. While perhaps the movie ticks more because of the compelling nature of the story rather than any cinematic brilliance, there are some cameo performances worth mentioning. The movie covers the last two years of her life, leading up to her brutal murder. It shows her at her intrepid but often naive best, with Blanchett doing a truly magnificent job. It also manages to bring out some of the grey areas of Guerin's life: her complex relationship with fame, her desire for a story even at the cost of her family and her own well being. She is portrayed as being driven and ambitious but also self seeking, reckless and open to manipulation.
Other outstanding performances include Ciaran Hinds as John Traynor, who misleads Guerin and is ultimately responsible for her death, a psychotic and brutally convincing performance by Gerard McSorley as John Gilligan and a restrained but supportive role from Brenda Fricker as Guerin's mother.
The movie has received very contradictory reviews in both the United Kingdom and Ireland. Some have argued that it descends into the kind of tabloid sensationalism that Guerin herself would have despised. Others point out that it does not answer why Guerin would continue to pursue Gilligan even when he threatened to kidnap and rape her son. The drug lords are portrayed in a rather unidimensional light, and the director's conclusion that Gilligan killed Martin Cahill, despite the IRA claiming responsibility for it, is open to questioning. Finally, the soundtrack is not very appropriate and tends to cater to Irish stereotypes rather than be truly uplifting.
These criticisms apart however, the movie does make for very gripping viewing. One cannot help but admire Guerin's dogged determination and her crusading zeal. Her charm, professionalism and charisma shine through even in a reproduction of her life.
Basic movie info:
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenplay by: Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue
Story by: Carol Doyle
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
: Veronica Guerin
: John Gilligan
: Gerry Hutch (The Monk)
: Martin Cahill
: Graham Turley
: Bernadette Guerin
For more information about the movie please check out http://www.thefilmfactory.co.uk/vguerin/ and http://veronicaguerin.com. For information about her life please look at http://www.freemedia.at/IPIReport2.00/20 Guerin.htm