Film Review: The Guarantee

When news of a film about Fianna Fáil’s 2008 bank guarantee emerged, we wondered if Ireland was finally going to get its own All the President’s Men. Perhaps due to the cast of characters it would be more like The Thick of It, but either way it was an exciting prospect. A film that dealt in real time with real issues that are affecting our nation. Would Irish film finally be divorcing itself from its obsession with the troubles and attemp to reflect the current situation of our post-Celtic Tiger society to us?

The Guarantee may address a key moment in modern Irish politics, but alas this is not likely to find itself regarded in the company of those aforementioned classics. Adapted from Colin Murphy’s play Guaranteed! the film-makers seem to have committed the worst sin of film-making, which is falsely believing that their subject matter is interesting or important enough to carry the film. As a result they have not bothered themselves adapting the story, instead plonking it wholesale on the screen in one of the worst-looking features to come out of this country in a while.

How does The Guarantee deal with its subject matter? At 80 minutes it tries to cram reams of information onto the screen, but after 60 minutes of having characters talk about abstract banking concepts such as “financial markets”, “liquidation” and “confidence” the brain simply gives up, and the film becomes unwatchable. In the entire runtime of the film there is one moment of relief when Brian Cowen spends about ten seconds trying to get a coffee machine to work. Apart from that it’s people talking about concepts. You have to wonder why is this a film, and did anybody who worked on The Guarantee stop to ask themselves that question?

The Guarantee also happens to be desperately ugly. Shot entirely on a soundstage the backgrounds are all green screens or theatrical sets, so even when you’re trying to avoid the information assault you don’t have any interesting images to look at. When was the last time a film so ignored the basic tenets of what a film is? This is supposed to be a visual medium, but it seems more like an acted out audio-book of one of the most disjointed newspaper articles ever written.

And so we continue to wait for a film to come along that has the interest and the balls to show us what goes on behind the scenes in Irish politics as well as the ability to tell it in a way that is comprehensible. The Guarantee fails as a film, and as a result, it fails to get its point across. If you want to find out about the bank guarantee there are surely any number of books or newspaper articles about it, The Guarantee will teach you nothing. In cinemas 30 October 2014. Watch the trailer here.

Stephen Murphy

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