Friday, January 12, 2018

Movie Review: "No Stone Unturned" (2017)

Director: Alex Gibney
Year: 2017
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

The families of the victims of a mass shooting that took place at a pub in Loughinisland, Northern Ireland search for answers to this decades-old unsolved crime.

There was a time in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles. During this period, terrorists from the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and terrorists from loyalist groups like the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) would go "tit for tat," or eye for an eye, killing each other and civilians during a period of vicious conflict. If a member of the IRA was murdered, there was no question that a Protestant would be killed in retaliation. If a member of the UVF was murdered, Catholic civilians would be killed in retaliation. Such was the case one evening, June 18, 1994, at a small pub in Loughinisland, Northern Ireland, where a group of people, all of whom were Catholic, happened to be watching Ireland competing in the World Cup on television when a group of masked men entered the pub and gunned them all down. These men were said to be members of the UVF and the killing was a retaliation for the death of one of its members who was killed by the IRA. Though a preliminary investigation was conducted and the police found an abundance of evidence from potential suspects, nobody was ever charged with a crime. Acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney, who has made other hard-hitting pieces like the Oscar-nominated "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," the Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side," and "Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief," takes a look at this unsolved case and tries to explore what went wrong during the investigation.

We are huge fans of Alex Gibney's work and have liked many of his past films. In many ways, "No Stone Unturned" is a fairly standard true crime documentary. He speaks with family members of the victims who were killed in the '94 terrorist attack, as well as the only survivor of the massacre. Gibney attempts to piece together clues as he talks to police and other investigators. He also interviews a former member of the UVF, the terrorist group which took responsibility for the shooting. As Gibney sets the stage with his narration, there are reenactments of the event and crime scene photos shown in graphic, grizzly detail. We learn a brief but thorough history of Northern Ireland, how it remained part of Great Britain when Ireland declared its independence and The Troubles that started because of it. These are facts I can't say I remember learning about in school. The battle between separatists and loyalists raged on for years until a peace agreement was met that exonerated most terrorists of the crimes they committed during this troubled period. Gibney scrutinizes police investigations, uncovers why they failed, and seeks to find if there was a conspiracy or cover-up by the British government to protect informants and others who may have committed this heinous act.

Though all of these historical events are examined, at its core, "No Stone Unturned" is a story about a family looking for closure for the loss of a son and father. It is a damning story, one we had no knowledge of prior to watching this film. It is full of emotion and sorrow, and it has the ability to make you angry and baffled at the same time as piece by piece the mystery is revealed. That being said, we were not as gripped by this documentary as we hoped we would be and we must admit, we were far more engaged by Gibney's other award-worthy pieces than this one. It is clear that a painstaking amount of time and effort is taken to catch everyone in the audience up on the history of this story, but we think the film as a whole could have been streamlined a bit. If you are intrigued by true crime, government conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries, chances are, this documentary will still be worth your while.

*"No Stone Unturned" is now available to watch on all major VOD platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google, Vudu, Vimeo, etc.*

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~75%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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