Fifty Dead Men Walking is a 2008 English-language crime thriller film written and directed by Kari Skogland. It is a loose adaptation of Martin McGartland's 1997 autobiography of the same name. It premiered in September 2008, and stars Jim Sturgess as Martin McGartland, an informant within the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Ben Kingsley as Fergus, his British handler.
The film is set from 1987 until 1991, the time in which McGartland acted as an undercover informant within the IRA during The Troubles. In 1991 his cover was blown and he was kidnapped by the IRA, although he later escaped and went into hiding.
At the time of the release of the film McGartland was still in hiding. The film takes its name from McGartland's claim within his book to have saved the lives of fifty people during his time as an informant.
Martin McGartland disowned the film as was reported in the Sunday Times on March 29, 2009. Martin told the Sunday Times that "they are saying it was based on a true story, but what is the definition of 'based on a true story'? Is it 50% true, 70% true, 10%?" The Sunday Times also reported that McGartland contended "that the movie is fundamentally a lie that misrepresents his career and his motivation. He believes that if Kari Skogland, the director, had stuck closer to the account he gave in his book and in a BBC documentary, then she would have had a better film."
Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess) is a 21-year-old street hustler from Northern Ireland, living in the 1980s. The Irish Republican Army wants to recruit him, but he is reluctant because of what he sees as their cruel justice. Because of his connection to the community, the British police want him to infiltrate and spy on the IRA. Marty agrees because of the car and money he gets from the police and because he dislikes the IRA. The IRA accepts him as a Volunteer and in that position he learns of various planned attacks. He then informs Fergus, his police contact, to prevent these attacks. He builds up a new sense of self-esteem, but he cannot tell his family and friends about his activities. Even his new girlfriend Lara (Nathalie Press) only notices that he seems to do some work for the IRA, which worries her.
All along, the British accept the risk that the IRA may discover that Marty works for them. They do not plan to rescue him in that case. When it happens, the IRA capture and torture Marty, but he manages to escape by throwing himself out of a window. His handler Fergus is now his only ally--he finds him and helps him hide. Fergus offers to arrange for Marty and Lara and their children to live in Scotland but Marty realises that she would never be able to feel safe. He then goes on the run to Canada alone, leaving his family behind. As shown at the start of the film, he is shot there by the IRA and survives.
CastJim Sturgess as Martin McGartland
Rose McGowan as Grace Sterrin
Ben Kingsley as Fergus
Kris Edlund as Mrs. Conlan
Kevin Zegers as Sean
Nathalie Press as Lara
Paschal Friel as Jana