21-year-old Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess) finds himself coming to the attention of the IRA who want him to join up, something he is unsure of due to some of the ways the operate. It is why the British Police convince him to work for them by as a spy within the IRA, well that and the money and car they give him. With Martin on the inside he is able to feed information back to his contact, Fergus (Ben Kingsley) and prevent various attacks, saving lives in the process. But being a spy means he can't tell anyone as to what he does, not even his new girlfriend Lara (Natalie Press) who thinks he works for the IRA, something she isn't happy about. What Martin or Fergus doesn't know is that if his cover is blown there is no plan to rescue him, something which Fergus refuses to accept.
I want you to ignore two things for a moment, one of those is that this movie is about a spy within the IRA and the other is that the movie is loosely based on the true story of Martin McGartland. And if you ignore them what you have left is a pretty routine thriller about a young man talked in to being spy, making sacrifices in doing so, feeling betrayed and then finding his life in danger when his cover ends up being blown. Maybe it is because of this that Martin McGartland disowned the movie saying that it was not his story and why for me it mostly felt like a routine drama rather than something special.
Now having told you to ignore the whole IRA thing I might as well tell you that this isn't really a movie about the IRA or their operations. Basically Martin could have been infiltrating the mafia or the triads as it is all about the danger he was in and the connection with Fergus, his operator or at least that is what this movie is about. I suppose in a way it is disappointing as whilst it works as a piece of cinema for those just wanting a thriller full of danger for me I expected something more factual.
But despite not being as good as I had hoped it would be the acting is good throughout with Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess and Natalie Press all delivering plenty of character. For me it is thanks to the performances and the fact they bring the relationships to life which makes "Fifty Dead Men Walking" entertaining when it all gets a bit too routine.
What this all boils down to is that "Fifty Dead Men Walking" is on one hand an entertaining bit of routine cinema surrounding the dangers of an undercover spy. But as a movie based on a true story it doesn't work so well and fails to bring to life the personal side of things.