Director: Ian Power
Cast: David Murray, Orla Fitzgerald, Peter Coonan, Morgan C Jones
Running Time: 75 minutes
Release Date: October 31st
On the night of September 29th 2008, the Irish Government took steps to ensure a banking collapse would be avoided by guaranteeing the banks using the Irish taxpayers money. In doing so they created a legacy that led to the country requiring a EU/IMF bailout that has resulted in a series of austerity budgets and tightening of the public finances. This is the story of how the decision to guarantee came about and the main players in making the landmark decision in Irish history.
Based on the play Guaranteed! by Colin Murphy and produced by John Kelleher media (the former film censor), this documentary-come-stage play reenactment falls short in a number of areas.
The whole product comes across like a TV documentary with dramatic recreations, the main problem being the drama isn’t all that dramatic. It consistently cuts to media reports and political commentary from TV3 (it was backed by TV3) that took place during the banking collapse as it happened. This would be fine if the drama was able to match the reality of what was happening, but oddly the drama steers clear of dialogue. Instead, the main dramatic scenes — taking place primarily in government buildings — choose to go for little or no discourse, merely showing people in conversation or briefings as financial information and data appears on screen. Failing to properly dramatise the moments that made history, in Irish banking and political circles, means the audience are left with a sense of wonderment as to exactly what happened. That is not a good thing, because the whole point was to tell the story of how this all went down.
The characterisation of the main players is not shy in taking swipes at those who it clearly deems mostly responsible for being asleep at the wheel. Brian Cowen is consistently depicted as a vacant and uninterested country gombeen whose main interest seems to be football and rugby. The tension that exists between Cowen and Lenihan is mostly made to work by a strong performance from David Murray who continues to impress. Peter Coonan is undoubtedly a talented actor, but he is given very little to work with. His David Drumm and central banker seem to be the exact same character except with differing hairstyles and facial hair.
The support players are mostly irrelevant, but there is a definite finger being pointed at the boys club that wasn’t listening to the only female in the Department of Finance. It is a suggestive context to place on the overall events that took place, but it fails to develop on the idea and bring it to any type of conclusion, which makes its addition pointless.
With a running time that’s more TV dramatisation than feature film and a lack of craft to make it all work, The Guarantee is a disappointing and ultimately failed attempt to inform the public on one of the most important moments in our collective memory.