Viewing events in flashback from an assassination attempt on an on-the-run McGartland in 1999, Skogland races around the streets of Catholic West Belfast tracing the induction and corruption of the cocky young fence and petty criminal (an impressive Jim Sturgess) as he’s nurtured by ageing, lonely Special Branch runner Fergus (an inappropriately effete Ben Kingsley), recruited by IRA squad leader Mikey (a fearsome Tom Collins) and wooed by local sweetheart Lara (Natalie Press in starry-eyed Sissy Spacek mode).
The title comes from a line in McGartland’s autobiography about the number of innocent lives from all sides of the divide his duplicity may have saved. It’s an isolating, crushing irony that Skogland’s movie seeks to exploit as an avenue of impartiality that in the event seems trivial or sophist. She does engineer an atmosphere of verismo – the locations, cultural accoutrements and accents seem accurate enough – but their credibility is undermined by the historical conflations and a seduction by the spectacle of violence. On the plus side is Sturgess’s sympathetic playing, a number of persuasive cameos and some well-mounted, tense widescreen action sequences.