In 1975, 17-year-old Alistair Little, a fledgling member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (a loyalist terrorist group in Northern Ireland) shot dead 19-year-old Catholic James Griffin. Joe, his 11-year-old brother, witnesses the crime whilst playing football outside. Five Minutes of Heaven is a dramatisation of this and the events leading up to it, followed by an imagining of the fictional meeting between Alistair Little and Joe Griffin - now both middle-aged - for a television documentary.
The first half is a fittingly contemplative recreation. Little, apart from being part of the UVF, is an otherwise ordinary teenage boy. We know this because he inspects his spots in the mirror and listens to Roxy Music in his room. Before murdering Jim Griffin, Little and fellow UVF members consider the hero's welcome he'll receive back in the pub after committing the atrocious act. They take it in turns to hold the gun. There's a sense the gravity of the situation is never fully realised. The crime itself is chillingly underplayed - allowing the events to speak for themselves without any needlessly exploitative dramatic devices.
The film's second part however, lacks some of the contemplation found before. Alistair Little's (Liam Neeson) smarmy redemption makes it impossible for you to empathise with him. Joe Griffin's (James Nesbitt) narrative is oddly fast-paced, quippy and more bizarrely still, really quite upbeat. There are a few moments of quiet reflection, however. Joe nervously chatting up one of the documentary's runners before descending into a raving hysteria is distinctly unsettling. The abject fear both men have of coming face-to-face is horribly palpable. Overall, the second half lacks the tension and unease such an encounter would doubtlessly arouse.
EXTRAS ** Interviews with several cast members, behind the scenes footage and the film's trailer.