On August 15, 1998, a bomb is set off by terrorists in the Northern Ireland town of Omagh in defiance of the Good Friday agreement signed by the IRA. Hundreds are injured and dozens killed, among them 21-year-old Aidan Gallagher (Paul Kelly) who works in a car repair shop with his father Michael (Gerard McSorley). In the aftermath of the attack, Michael becomes an unexpected leader for grieving Omagh residents angered at official failure to bring the terrorists to justice.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Omagh is two films in one. The first, which lasts about half an hour, consists mainly of physical movements and sounds: feet crunching on gravel, liquid being poured from a vat. Then glimpses of a family having breakfast, a crowd in the street on market day, interspersed with quieter moments: the town seen from a distance through mist at the top of the hill. But we know what's coming, even before the police start cordoning off areas - the wrong ones - in response to an anonymous phone call. In a flash, the street becomes a war zone, the mist is replaced by smoke, and a man rushes through a hospital looking for his dying son. At first, the realistically shown terrorist attack seems like a random disaster which might strike anyone at any time. But when the smoke clears, a particular and familiar story emerges: about a man who stands up for natural justice against a compromised system, like a figure from Greek tragedy, or Erin Brockovich. The handheld, semi-documentary camerawork remains, but increasing emphasis is placed on close-up confrontations where Michael Gallagher pits his moral authority against a crowd at a meeting, the doubts of his family, or politicians like the impervious Gerry Adams (impersonated deadpan by Jonathan Ryan). Gerald McSorley is almost too good in the difficult role of an "ordinary" man who finds leadership thrust on him - his bowed shoulders filmed from behind as moving as the obstinate eyes set in a mild elderly face. The enactment of stoic grief triggers instant sympathy, which might be the problem. As propaganda on behalf of the Omagh victims the film does its work well, but in the end both the personal story and the collective one seem unsatisfactory: we know no more about the exact motivations of the terrorists (never convicted in reality) than we do about the relationship between Michael and his considerably younger wife. Neither absence tells us much, because here humanity exists only on one side of the equation; a larger picture, which the film at first promised to show us in fragments, remains unknown.
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CAST: Gerard McSorley, Michele Forbes, Brenda Fricker, Stuart Graham, Peter Balance, Pauline Hutton, Fiona Glascott, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Clare Connor
PRODUCER: Paul Greengrass, Ed Guiney
DIRECTOR: Pete Travis
SCRIPT: Paul Greengrass, Guy Hibbert
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donal Gilligan
EDITOR: Clive Barrett
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Wilson
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 1, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video
VIDEO RELEASE: May 24, 2006