No Stone Unturned

 

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An investigation that reveals more than the killers.

 
No Stone Unturned

  

The latest film from that noted documentarian Alex Gibney may not rank with his very best but it is a fascinating piece of investigative journalism. At its heart is a tit-for-tat killing that occurred in Northern Ireland in 1994. The small community of Loughinisland in which both Catholics and Protestants lived in peace was shocked when a gunman entered a pub there and killed six men in addition to wounding five others. The Troubles were famed for sectarian murders. Even so, to have innocent Catholics watching the World Cup on the pub's television screen shot down as a riposte by loyalists of the UVF to a recent killing of Protestants by the IRA brought the conflict to a rural area unprepared for it.

 

Gibney talks to relatives of the dead and to survivors and then, making his own enquiries, interviews men formerly involved in both the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The initial investigation by the authorities in 1994 petered out after some arrests that led to no charges and subsequent historical footage shows us how in 2006 those still eager to learn the truth formed a Justice Group which would lead to a disappointing official report by the then ombudsman. In 2013 a fresh ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, would accept that another report was needed and accordingly set in hand a new investigation.

 

Although Gibney's film is centred on these particular killings and the subsequent cover-up, No Stone Unturned raises issues that are broader than that and the journalist John Ware (a consultant on the film) contributes to this. Early on in his film Gibney realises the need to refer back to 1922 and the events that led to the Troubles in order to make clear the full context of his film which will ultimately go further than the report delivered by Dr Maguire twenty-two years after the shootings at Loughinisland. No Stone Unturned reveals a complex tale in which the fact that informants were widely used would play a crucial part (Gibney sensibly remains politically neutral since this is not the issue here). Two facts - that Gibney uncovers names still not acknowledged in the 2016 report and that no one even now has been charged - make for a telling charge against the British government indicative of the extent to which states are prepared to compromise, the protection of informants being allowed to outweigh proper standards of morality and justice.

 

As will be realised, No Stone Unturned is well worthy of your attention. However, it is largely an affair of talking heads and, as though recognising the need to break away from that, Gibney overindulges dramatic recreations (the scene in the bar prior to the shooting looks just like a fictional film and, although the car used by the UVF men was destroyed, a strikingly bright red replica stands in for it more than once). Such details damage the film's sense of authenticity. Furthermore, one gets the feeling that whenever things require to be livened up a bit the thing to do is to show a gun pointed at the audience and to fire it. Ultimately such elaboration, including some clich├ęd music intended to add to the impact, underlines the fact that in truth a book would provide a better format that a film to tell this story. Nevertheless, it's a story that definitely deserves to be told.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  John Ware, Clare Rogan, Emma Rogan, Jimmy Binns, Phil Dennison, Barry McCaffrey, Dr Michael Maguire, Niall Murphy, Maura Casement.

 

Dir Alex Gibney, Pro Trevor Birney, Alex Gibney and Eimhear O'Neill, Screenplay Alex Gibney, Ph Stan Harlow and Ross McDonnell, Pro Des David Craig, Ed Andy Grieve and Alexis Johnson, Music Ivor Guest and Robert Logan.

 

Fine Point Films/Jigsaw Productions/Kew Media Group/Northern Ireland Screeen-Wildcard Distribution.
111 mins. UK/USA. 2017. Rel: 10 November 2017. Cert. 15.