Blind Flight

Blind Flight


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The worst thing about incarceration is the not knowing. Will I die tomorrow? Will I die next week? Will this deprivation last forever? What is forever? Where is now? What day is it? What year?

Brian Keenan was locked in fetid rooms outside and in Beirut for four-and-a-half years. He was tortured at the whim of his guards, or sat on a bare floor, watching insects eat his food. An English journalist, with a public school sense of humour, called John McCarthy, was with him for much of the time. This is their story.

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Based on Keenan's book, An Evil Cradling, and co-scripted by the author, with McCarthy as technical advisor, authenticity is guaranteed. Director/co-writer John Furse makes no attempt to familiarise the audience with the political situation, or place them in the context of the Lebanese civil war.

Why would these terrorists, if that is what they were, want to kidnap a school teacher from Northern Ireland? He was given no explanation, offered no apology, which added to the uncertainty and crazed logic of what was happening to him. Rather than be intimidated, he argued fiercely with those in authority who came to question him. He was not to be questioned; he demanded answers, in vain.

It is a brave decision by the filmmakers to record Keenan and McCarthy's experience entirely from their perspective. The world outside can only be imagined and, apart from the briefest of flashbacks and scenes after Keenan's release - in which the difficulty of returning to normality is emphasised - the camera stays with the prisoners.

A friendship builds slowly between the men - Keenan the thinker, McCarthy the joker - which is beautifully handled. The personality of the guards evolves naturally over time and although their reason for doing what they are doing is never discussed, their schizophrenic behavior is ever threatening.

The performances are remarkable. Ian Hart never stops being amazing in everything he does. He epitomises Keenan's bloody-mindedness and conviction to a higher truth that concerns the dignity of the human spirit, rather than anything remotely religious. Linus Roache has an easy charm that slips effortlessly beneath McCarthy's skin.

Where the film gains over other PoW/kidnap scenarios is by refusing to cheat. The guards are not stereotypes, with swarthy unshaven faces, and the prisoners are not stiff-lipped heroes, with jokey one-liners stuffed down their trousers. The agony of their ordeal can be painful to watch, as the depth of their dependency strengthens.

If pain heals, fear destroys. When a guard puts a pistol to his head, Keenan turns on him and says, between gritted teeth, " I am NOT afraid of you." And so they survived.

Reviewed on: 08 Apr 2004
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The story of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy's kidnap in Beirut.
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Director: John Furse

Writer: John Furse, Brian Keenan, based on An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan

Starring: Ian Hart, Linus Roache, Mohamad Chamas

Year: 2003

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Reel 2006

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