Pierrepoint (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/04/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Engaging, powerful and thought-provoking film, with impressive attention to detail and a strong central performance from Timothy Spall.

What’s it all about?
Pierrepoint is based on the true story of Albert Pierrepoint (Timothy Spall), Britain’s most notorious hangman, who hanged 608 people between 1933 and his voluntary retirement in 1955.

Initially, Albert is able to keep his grisly double life a secret from his wife, Anne (Juliet Stevenson), thanks to his day job as a grocery delivery man and an active social life that includes a pub-based comedy double-act with his best friend Tish (Eddie Marsan).

However, when Albert is recruited to hang Nazi war criminals, the wartime propaganda machine reveals him to the world as The Man Who Hanged The Beast of Belsen and shatters his closely-guarded anonymity. Despite his new-found national hero status, Albert begins to question the morality of his job, particularly when Fate deals him an unexpected hand.

The Good
Spall gives a superb performance as Pierrepoint, keeping his trademarked blubbering to a minimum for once and clearly illustrating the balance between Pierrepoint’s pride in his work and his ability to emotionally distance himself from it. There’s also strong support from Juliet Stevenson and Eddie Marsan, as well as Claire Keelan (from Nathan Barley), who stands out in a small role as, well, a tart.

The Great
The script is extremely good and contains several intriguing details, such as the fact that Pierrepoint was also responsible for preparing the corpses for burial and his belief that hanging was equivalent to atonement. In addition, director Adrian Shergold pays close attention to period detail, creating an extremely evocative atmosphere.

There are several strong scenes in the film particularly during the Nuremberg sequences. It’s also impressively edited, smoothly spanning several years without spoon-feeding the viewer via captions and so on.

Worth seeing?
In short, Pierrepoint is an emotionally engaging, thought-provoking drama that’s worth seeing for a superb performance by Spall. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 05:10

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