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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loach's Flawed Political Thriller
Ken Loach's 1990 political thriller Hidden Agenda, set in the midst of the troubles in Northern Ireland is an absorbing and atmospheric depiction (based, albeit loosely some might argue, on real-life events) of police and intelligence service covert anti-terrorist operations. Whilst the main storyline is based on the 1984 John Stalker-led enquiry into the RUC's alleged...
Published on 8 Oct. 2012 by Keith M

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3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Film
Would say its worth a watch, the type of film that annoys you more than anything as it shows how twisted this part of the world was during this period, British government at it's scummiest !
Published 13 months ago by Projected Prophecy


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loach's Flawed Political Thriller, 8 Oct. 2012
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Ken Loach's 1990 political thriller Hidden Agenda, set in the midst of the troubles in Northern Ireland is an absorbing and atmospheric depiction (based, albeit loosely some might argue, on real-life events) of police and intelligence service covert anti-terrorist operations. Whilst the main storyline is based on the 1984 John Stalker-led enquiry into the RUC's alleged shoot-to-kill policy, Loach (and screenwriter Jim Allen) widened the scope of Hidden Agenda to include a link to the well-known conspiracy theory that, during the mid-1970s MI5 had planned a coup d'état against the Wilson government. For me, this dilutes (and confuses) the focus of the film, thus making it somewhat less effective.

Having said this, Hidden Agenda has many positives and works well when focused on the political intrigue around the shoot-to-kill policy. Brian Cox delivers another outstanding performance as Kerrigan, the police officer (i.e. the Stalker figure) drafted in to investigate the circumstances under which a US human rights lawyer, Paul Sullivan (Brad Dourif in a brief appearance) has been shot, whilst in the company of an IRA sympathiser. Cox's scenes with the RUC chief Brodie (played with steely defiance in a film-stealing performance by Jim Norton - if you can imagine Porridge's Fulton McKay, but without the laughs) are superb, as Kerrigan's attempts to get to the bottom of the police cover-up are thwarted at every turn ('That is classified information'). Stalwart acting support is also provided by Frances McDormand as Sullivan's fellow investigator and girlfriend, Ingrid Jessner, from Maurice Roėves as Harris, the police intelligence officer turned informer and from Des McAleer as one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting.

Loach, and cinematographer Clive Tickner, capture the mood of the times and setting well, with scenes of protestant marches interspersed with those of soldiers scrambling from jeeps. Similarly, the tensions and suspicions pervading everyday life are nicely drawn, as people exchange nervous glances and choose their words with exaggerated deliberation.

Despite focusing on the wider (less convincing) conspiratorial goings-on, one of the standout scenes of the film is that towards the end where Kerrigan meets the two senior political 'prime movers' MI5's Sir Robert Neil and chief conspirator Alec Nevin, respectively played with superb slimy sycophancy by Bernard Archard and Patrick Kavanagh. During the scene the two attempt to persuade (and indeed later bribe) Kerrigan to handover the tape containing the evidence of conspiracy, justifying their (treasonous) actions by reference to the illegal (but, in their view, justified) coercion of the (real-life) Birmingham Six bomb suspects. Of course, ironically, in real life the Six were later cleared and evidence of a police conspiracy revealed.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Agenda, 18 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
A highly watchable film with a thoughtful and unusual view of a painful, difficult and overdone subject. Excellent acting by both the main protagonists. Highly recommended.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprised but good, 17 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
I watched this film with friends all of which came up in the Irish troubles and was very surprised how good this film is and how close it gets to the underbelly of the troubles in the north of Ireland
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Northern Ireland Out Of Focus, 3 April 2013
This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
'Hidden Agenda' is a political thriller about terrorism in Northern Ireland. The director is Ken Loach. This is not really Loach's best work, but it is still a good film. One of the things I do like about Loach's methods is a tendency to use real people in minor roles instead of actors and to get them to 'act real', i.e. behave in a realistic way rather than an acting way. This 'social realist' method works quite well here. This film is tense, atmospheric and, above-all, is a realistic depiction of Northern Ireland and its people. Central to the plot is a British police officer, 'Jim Kerrigan', who is sent across the Irish Sea to investigate the assassination of an American civil rights lawyer. Kerrigan's real-life counterpart is assumed to be John Stalker, a senior Greater Manchester police officer who was asked during the 1980s to investigate allegations of a unofficial shoot-to-kill policy in operation within a covert unit of the then-RUC.

'Hidden Agenda' could be considered a very rough filmisation of the eponymous Stalker Inquiry, albeit with a large amount of licence in that the director assumes a conspiracy. The story has great potential but could really use some focus. The basic premise that British forces were essentially terrorist is believable. I would certainly liken the Troubles to a kind of organised violent destabilisation of the type that was seen, for instance, in 1970s Chile. Terrorism is a friend of governments as it is a way to keep order. Loach should have focused more on this narrative, which has resonance even today. Instead, he confuses things by extending the 'conspiracy' to include allegations of a right-wing coup in 1970s Britain against the then-Labour government that was supposed to have brought Thatcher to power. There is no evidence to support that conspiracy theory and it's likely apocryphal. Its inclusion here just confuses things and, in my view, smothers would could have been a much more compelling film.
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37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lesson for today from recent history, 24 Feb. 2008
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This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
A very good film. It is a dramatization but a lot of it is based on reality. If you would prefer something more factual, then look up the Historical Enquiries Team findings particularly re: The Miami Showband Incident, the assassination of Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane, and Kincorra Boys home paedophile scandal. It shows the danger of unchecked and unaccountable security services operating in an enviornment where they can get away with murder and become a law unto themselves, and where civil liberties are trampled upon in the name of a so-called war on terror. A warning for today. You cant help see similarities with todays situation whereby we have repressive legislation and the assasination of Jean Charles Demenezes. I am reminded of a quote from Wilhelm Reich that goes 'who guards the guards, who polices the police'. None of the troubles in northern Ireland would have happened if Britain had given the whole of Ireland back to the Irish, whom it belonged. There were and are, plenty of protestants who support and have supported a united Ireland.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Film, 23 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Would say its worth a watch, the type of film that annoys you more than anything as it shows how twisted this part of the world was during this period, British government at it's scummiest !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Agenda, 15 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Highly recommended film about situation in Northern Ireland. Excellent plot and story. Good casting, brilliant work from Ken Loach. Five stars for this classic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling and thought provoking, 28 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Very good, horribly plausible and made one think. Really enjoyed it a lot. I have said enough but I need to write these last words!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Slow, Slow, Quick Quick Slow, 18 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Slow moving and did not like this at all. They could have made this much more of a drama considering the storyline. Waste of money I felt but others may feel differently.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DOES THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS?, 15 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
Great film from Ken Loach which will, I'm sure, provoke an emotional response from many people. In a way reminded me of 'All The President's Men' which also exposed the misuse of state assets by right wing politicians. Good performances from Brian Cox and Frances McDormand. Loved the quote at the end! Certainly recommend this film to others.
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Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991]
Hidden Agenda [DVD] [1991] by Ken Loach (DVD - 2003)
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