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Veronica Guerin

  Veronica Guerin
Cate Blanchett contemplates that thing above Ciaran Hinds' mouth.

© 2003, Touchstone
All Rights Reserved

In 1994, Irish journalist Veronica Guerin (Cate Blanchett) found herself making headway in the fight to reveal the drug epidemic that plagued her homeland. Over the course of two years, Guerin fought her way into the laps of the drug barons with the help of her informant (Ciaran Hinds, "The Sum of All Fears"), sacrificing her family and social obligations in an attempt to expose these criminals. Beloved by her readers, yet loathed by the drug dealers who didn't care for the publicity, Guerin was gunned down in her automobile in 1996, making her a national martyr, and forcing immediate drug policy change in Ireland.

With the exception of his bloated 2002 action comedy, "Bad Company," director Joel Schumacher has been attempting to pare down his normal overstuffed films with spare experiments such as "Flawless," "Tigerland," and this past spring's impressive thriller, "Phone Booth." "Veronica Guerin" (IMDb listing) is Schumacher's attempt at a historical bio-pic, and I can say with great relief that he's done a magnificent job bringing this difficult story to the screen. "Guerin" is a tale that could easily be turned into a cheerleader for a specific cause. The trick of the movie is that it plays out exactly like that, turning Guerin into a figure of incredibly noble intentions and genuine results. But Schumacher and the screenplay also keep the danger in Guerin's life alive and authentic, as she was the victim of many attempts on her life, and was the recipient of more threats than one could count. Schumacher maintains a balance between Guerin the crusader and Guerin the reckless journalist, who's desire for the scoop overshadowed her ability to clearly perceive the danger she was in. This is a tale told with rock-steady commitment, which is something Schumacher isn't known for. I would even go as far as to say that it's the best picture to ever come out of the uneven director.

However, Schumacher is only as strong as his female lead, and there's a mighty power in Cate Blanchett. Having forged a career incapable of playing a false note, Blanchett is perfection as Guerin. No other actress could find the line Guerin rode between manipulation and power; a line that was ridden to the very day of her death. It's apparent in the looks that Blanchett gives to the drug dealers, salivating as she awaits her chance to take them down. Or the flash of hope in the artificial smile that she tosses to her family, trying to placate them while she skips down the road of fate. It's a tour de force performance from Blanchett in a role that would be a shadow without her unceasing talents to make it layered and genuine.

Much like Guerin's real life, the true power of the story takes place after her assassination. Schumacher completely nails the last reel of the film, telling a silent story of how Guerin's death affected those close to her. Scored to a simple Irish song, the power of the montage is almost too much to bear, lifting "Veronica Guerin" to operatic heights of sorrow. Tales of positive change and outcry in the face of death are always dicey propositions in film, but Joel Schumacher treats the story with reverence and creates a haunting drama.

Filmfodder Grade: A-

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