Movie Review: No Stone Unturned

By Thom Compton 12.01.2018

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No Stone Unturned (UK Rating: 15)

Mass shootings are, despite being an all too common occurrence, also some of the most baffling crimes. It's human nature to need to know why something that would otherwise make no sense has transpired. This usually results in copious conspiracy theories. These are generally highly offensive, such as the theories that Sandy Hook or Port Arthur were staged. Still, every so often the conspiracy turns out to be true. In Alex Gibney's remarkably thorough No Stone Unturned - which landed on all major video-on-demand services on 8th January via Kew Media Group - the idea of the government conspiracy not only finds some solid ground to walk on, but does so with a fierce condemnation that occasionally borders on a personal vendetta.

No Stone Unturned tackles a shooting at a pub in Northern Ireland back in 1994. The shooting occurred during the World Cup game, where Ireland was playing Italy. While patrons sat around, smoking, drinking, and enjoying watching their team square off in the finals, men came into the pub and opened fire. Several were wounded, and six men lost their lives in the tragedy. What makes this mass shooting so bizarre is that now, even 24 years later, there's no definite answer as to whom exactly did it, or more accurately, why those involved were never charged.

In order to really understand the shooting's significance as it applies to the whole of Ireland, one needs to know about the civil war Ireland suffered for many years. No Stone Unturned does a fantastic job of setting the stage, taking the audience through the terrible struggle that befell the country as Catholics and Protestants formed armed militia and began killing one other in the streets. Found footage of IRA (Irish Republican Army) meetings, members clad in silk stocking masks or balaclavas are haunting, and Gibney doesn't allow a second to breathe as he ruthlessly digs out more and more horrors committed during this time, simply called The Troubles.

The conspiracy (although that may be a strong term in this case, as many considered it public knowledge) is how much the government, specifically that of neighbouring Britain, knew about the atrocities and did nothing. The politics that were involved were terrifying - as the film details touts - or informants, and the lengths the government went to protect them. Watching this all unfold is both sinister and humbling, as interviews with the most involved members of the case, and the many cases surrounding The Troubles, paint a picture that shows absolutely no one in a good light by the time it's over.

There are some sections that feel a bit off, however, such as the re-enactment at the beginning of the film. That's not to say that a re-enactment is completely out of place here, but it does set a very different tone than the rest of the film carries. The bigger issue is the lengths at which Gibney is willing to go bring justice to the families who, for many years, were robbed of even the slightest notion of it by government cover up, on one level or another. While it's always nice to see a filmmaker willing to literally bury themselves in the muck, Gibney occasionally feels like he crosses a line into vigilante journalism. One segment towards the end takes a widely accepted, yet not entirely proven, fact and uses it to justify outing a suspect. Like right down to where he works. It's bold, for sure, but it also feels like Gibney is out for blood, and it's hard to wonder if he didn't cross a line in what he was willing to share, whether it be with the audience or those involved in the film.

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Every section of No Stone Unturned is an unblinking attack at not only a war where innocent lives were treated as nothing more than litter, but also a system that allowed it to continue for entirely too long. While it can occasionally come off as too invasive or too ready to attack, it's important to remember that there are human lives behind this story that need someone in their corner like Gibney. It's just frustrating how his unwavering commitment can occasionally be quite uncomfortable to watch.

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