Blind Flight (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

True-life drama that is both harrowing and uplifting, with great performances from Ian Hart and Linus Roache.

Blind Flight, the story of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy’s imprisonment, has had something of a troubled development history, given that the idea for the film originated with Brian Keenan’s release in 1990.

Originally intended to highlight the plight of those still imprisoned, the film had reached its second draft stage by the time McCarthy was released a year later. Finally emerging after almost fifteen years of developmental wrangling, the finished film has lost some of its topical immediacy but remains a powerful testament to the human spirit, thanks to an impressive script and terrific performances from its two leads.

Adapted From Keenan’s Account

Both men were closely involved in the writing of the film, along with director John Furse – it’s adapted primarily from Keenan’s account of his ordeal (‘An Evil Cradling’), with significant input from McCarthy based on his own book (‘Some Other Rainbow’). Ian Hart plays Brian Keenan, a bristly Irishman from Belfast, working as an English teacher in Beirut in 1985. One day he leaves his house as normal and is kidnapped by a car-load of men.

At first he is kept in a tiny metal cell for many months. His captors seem to think he is British and seem confused when he tries to tell them he has an Irish passport. Eventually he is blindfolded, bundled into a car and taken to a disused storeroom, where he meets fellow captor John McCarthy (Linus Roache), an English journalist who’d come to Beirut to cover the story of Keenan’s abduction.

Initially the two men have little in common, as John (middle-class, affable) represents a lot of what Brian (working class, bitter, angry) hates about England. Similarly, John is mystified by Brian’s insistence on hunger striking and dirty protests, especially as his captors don’t seem to understand his actions.

Eventually, however, the forced intimacy of their imprisonment draws them closer together and each man begins to understand and care for the other. At the same time, they share a variety of different cells and captors over the years, with whom they also form strange, tense relationships.

Diets And Weight-Loss

The performances are excellent – both actors underwent rigorous diets and weight loss for their roles. Ian Hart is one of Britain’s best actors and he’s on top form here, never losing our sympathy for Keenan but also adeptly showing how he must have been a hard man to share a cell with. Roache has the easier, more instantly likeable role, but he is equally convincing and you get a real sense of his warm-hearted, optimistic nature, which makes his near nervous breakdown scene all the more harrowing.

There’s also a surprising amount of humour in the film, as well as good support from the actors playing their various captors, particularly Ziad Lahoud as Said. The only real problem is that it suffers a little from ‘Apollo 13 Syndrome’ in that we know that they will both eventually be released. That said, there are some genuinely terrifying moments, such as the scene in which they are both mummified in packing tape before being moved to a new cell.

In short, Blind Flight is a superbly acted, well-written true-life drama that is by turns frightening, disturbing and uplifting. Recommended.

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Content updated: 14/12/2017 17:03

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