Real life stories as a subject matter in the movies rarely provide anything invigorating or breakthrough. They follow a mostly familiar pattern of rise and fall, and our familiarity with the tale usually hampers any attempt of its makers to entertain us. 'Veronica Guerin', the journalistic crusade of an Irish woman that lead to her death in the mid 90's, does not belong to that category. Directed with uncharacteristic restraint by Joel Schumacher, and anchored by yet another spellbinding performance by Cate Blanchett in the title role, the movie entertains and enthralls in equal measure.
As played by Blanchett, Guerin is a tough, outgoing, courageous woman. A reporter by profession, she prowls the streets of Dublin, liaising with her contacts and knowing crew of street informants to crack the stories she works on. One such pursuit eventually leads her to treading the needle riddled streets of a slum district and meeting with addicts and pushers, some of whom are merely children, which ends up piquing her interest in an intense way. Her forceful resolve brings her to the very doorstep of the people she accuses for the heinous instigation, which include known criminal John Gilligan (a menacingly good Gerard McSorley) and his covert cohort, not to mention regular Guerin insider, John Traynor (Ciaran Hinds).
Her constant fact digging soon causes noticeable ire amongst this inglorious lot. She is threatened, shot at and physically assaulted, but she marches on with her story. As a concept in the movies, this is certainly nothing new, neither in its execution nor the turns that the story takes, yet it remains highly watch able and captivating. The investigative journalism is credible because it does not over complicate. Guerin's strategy is simple and rational; she tracks her suspects' tax dedications and their flow of money to argue against their illegal accumulation of wealth via their involvement in the drug trade.
She is surrounded and supported by a caring family, whom she ignores (she is married and has a son) and a concerned editor whose advice she does not heed. Sensing the magnitude of the threat she faces, her editor pleads her to write about fashion or football, but she remains fixated to her cause, and we dread the consequences. It's at this point that the flaw in the films execution is most apparent. We've learned all about the character, but nothing about the character's motivations. What drives her to these perilous depths? She comes across as too self destructive to care about ambition and is humble enough to refer to her paper as a 'drag'. Her quest becomes personal, when the intimidation reaches her home, but she just doesn't know when to quit. This is more a sad truth of her life than a manipulation of the script, which remains fairly linear.
Blanchett continues to marvel with the strength of her choice of roles and the conviction with which she plays them. More stupendous is the much maligned Joel Schumacher, scoring his second winner after the tense 'Phone Booth'. Both of them combine to create a winning combination for a film that resonates with viewers long after they leave their seats. - Faizan Rashid