Film Review: No Stone Unturned

Investigation into a 1994 massacre in Northern Ireland by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney.
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On a June night in 1994, a gunman enters a small bar in Northern Ireland, killing six men who had been watching the World Cup on TV. It's a crime that shocks a country worried about a revival of the "Troubles" between Catholics and Protestants, between loyalists and rebels, between the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).

Intrigued by a case that to this day has not been officially solved, documentarian Alex Gibney recounts the available facts, interviews associated figures, uncovers troubling documents, and sketches out an impenetrable web of deception.

As he did in earlier works like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side, Gibney recreates key scenes and uses hidden documents to expose false statements delivered about the case. He also extends the story backwards, providing a history of Ireland since the British-imposed partition of 1921 and explaining the motives driving the murders.

To those familiar with the Irish Troubles, this is a familiar and dispiriting tale of lies, betrayals and cover-ups leading to the upper reaches of the British government. Shoddy police work, lost evidence and missing witnesses contribute to the grief of survivors looking for closure.

No matter how adroitly Gibney questions his subjects, no matter how much he fills in the twists and turns in Northern Ireland's politics, no matter how obvious the culprits are, No Stone Unturned doesn't have the mounting tension, the sense of a tightening noose, that his best documentaries have. This feels more dogged than inspired, and Gibney's frustration with increasingly murky cover-ups is palpable.

That frustration is shared by many of the interviewees, like journalists John Ware (who addresses the compromises made on moral and legal standards) and Barry McCaffrey (who admits the massacre "always stuck with me"); retired policeman Jimmy Binns (who states that the police "made no effort" to solve the case); and especially family members who wait over 20 years for answers to who shot up that bar and why.

Widow Clare Rogan and her daughter Emma are just two of the survivors seen confronting policemen and government over the years. Their stories are heartbreaking, especially juxtaposed against official assurances that nothing will stop investigators until the guilty are in jail. In No Stone Unturned's darkest irony, the answers to the crime might be just down the road from them.

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