Based on a True Story
, this film starred Daniel Day-Lewis
, Pete Postlethwaite and Emma Thompson
. Released in 1993, it chronicles the ordeal of the Guildford Four, a group of three young Irishmen and their Englishwoman friend Wrongly Accused
of bombing two soldiers' pubs in Guildford, England in 1974. At the height of The Troubles
, all four were involved with drugs and petty crime, a profile the British police (wrongly) believed fit IRA terrorists. In fact Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis) left England to get away from the IRA who had threatened him for committing theft. After the bombing, police acted on a tip, arresting the four (and later Conlon family members, including Gerry Conlon's father Giuseppe). Coerced into falsely confessing by the police, the Four were convicted by this along with junk science indicating nitroglycerin traces on their bodies at trial, with the Irishmen receiving life sentences and their English friend fifteen years. Six other Conlon family members were also convicted on lesser charges and received sentences ranging from six to fifteen years in prison, including Giuseppe.
Gerry and Giuseppe are imprisoned together in one of the hardest British prisons, having to fight at first to survive inside. They meet one of the real bombers, Joe McAndrew, after he is locked up with them. Joe confirms their innocence, but the police do not want to hear it. Gerry briefly falls under McAndrew's spell, to Giuseppe's alarm, but his presence secures their status in the prison and he leads a protest which drives out the guards. The riot squad soon retakes the wing, however, and McAndrew swears revenge. Following this, an English lawyer, Gareth Pierce (Thompson), inspects things with an investigative commission after the riot, and tells Giuseppe she will look into his case. Gerry angrily tells her to not give him false hope. Still, in time all of the real murderers they are with recognize them to be innocent, and even the chief warder Barker seems to have doubts after getting to know the gentle, beautific Giuseppe. Gerry's affinity with McAndrew ends when he leads his fellow prisoners in a brutal attack on Barker for retaking the wing, and he is transferred to another prison in solitary confinement. After Giuseppe's premature death due to ill health exacerbated by prison, Gerry embarks on a quest to prove himself innocent with the help of Gareth, leading to a stirring and magnificent conclusion.
This Movie Contains Examples Of:
- Acquitted Too Late: Giuseppe.
- Artistic License - History: In reality, Gerry Conlon and his father Giuseppe were in separate prisons. Gerry never saw his father again. The real bombers were also never incarcerated with any of the Four, although they did confess at their own trial, exonerating them. Just as in the film, this was dismissed by the British authorities until evidence the police had lied about their confessions was revealed. There was also no alibi witness. Rather, the police falsified their interrogation notes to cover up the coercion they used to obtain the confessions. This was discovered by another police detective, not the Four's lawyer, when he was looking over the case file. However, the Griess test really did result in many false positives (such as the chemicals in playing cards being wrongly identified as nitroglycerin by a technician, for instance).
- Asshole Victim: Gerry. We first see him stealing building material and his alibi is robbing a prostitute. This is also what gets him in trouble, as he's ordered by the IRA to leave town, and then has no believable alibi in London when the bombing occurs.
- Based on a True Story: Sadly true, although fictionalized in the film.
- Chewing the Scenery: Day-Lewis, justified, well done and appropriate.
- Clear Their Name: The main thrust of the film's plot is to exonerate the Four and Gerry's family.
- Cluster F-Bomb
- Dawson Casting: Beatie Edney played 17-year old Carol Richardson while at least 30 at the time of filming herself (although she's later aged up as her character spends 15 years in prison).
- Fake Irish: Daniel Day-Lewis, Mark Sheppard and Pete Postlethwaite. However Day-Lewis got Irish citizenship and lives there, while Sheppard has some Irish heritage. All of them put on good accents too. Mostly it's averted anyway.
- Framing the Guilty Party: What the police apparently believed they were doing to the Guildford Four, feeling sure they were all guilty but without enough evidence to convict. It seems they felt good about it.
- Gray and Grey Morality: The British government is obviously the main antagonist, but the IRA aren't shown to be upstanding guys either.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Police tortured them into confessing, though doing so in ways that wouldn't leave any marks.
- Karma Houdini: In the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, it's stated three of the detectives who framed the Guildford Four were tried for perverting the course of justice in 1993, but acquitted. Sadly, that's Truth in Television.
- The Troubles: The backdrop for the film. 1974 was the height of a bombing campaign on the British mainland by the IRA.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Giuseppe is this to Gerry.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: One is given at the end of the film.
- Wrongly Accused: The Guildford Four. Basically wrong place, wrong time, wrong nationality.