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The Guarantee: A movie we know ends in tears, but compellingly captures an important part of Irish history

On September 29, 2008, one decision changed Ireland’s path.

Peter Coonan playing Anglo Irish Bank's David Drumm.
Peter Coonan playing Anglo Irish Bank's David Drumm.
Image: Screngrab

This piece was originally posted in October 2014, but has been republished ahead of the film screening on TV3 tonight. 

WHERE WAS I on September 29, 2008? That is the question you will find you are asking yourself when watching the new movie The Guarantee.

The opening shot of the movie shows up on screen at the press preview on Friday morning, with the words: “This is based on a true story.”

Someone bursts out laughing: “Ha”.

This film, based on a play, attempts to bring to the big screen the night the Irish Government decided to guarantee the entire domestic banking system.

The corridors of power

With a talented host of actors such as Love/Hate’s Peter Coonan, David Murray and Gary Lydon, the movie manages to bring this complicated story to life, creating an air of drama in the corridors of power, with old news clips for effect, while not beating viewers over the head with historical facts and figures.

A movie about bankers and politicians and a story we know ends in tears might not sound like your cup of tea, but this story managed to set in motion a series of events that we are still living with today.

The Guarantee had a tough task, but it successfully retells the story of that the decision, made by a handful of men, in a room in the middle of the night. A decision that cost over €60 billion – the most expensive bank rescue in history. And it manages to do it in just under 80 minutes.

The movie begins with describing events leading up to that night, and how the Government were desperately trying to buy time to keep the banks open. But largely the movie is set around Anglo Irish Bank, with Peter Coonan playing two roles in the movie, Anglo’s David Drumm as well as the Central Banker. (Which did confuse a few people discussing the movie afterwards).

The right decision

David Murray who plays the role of the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan brings great weight to the role, showing a man struggling to make the right decision, when his Taoiseach Brian Cowen (played by Gary Lydon) explains that they must decide upon the best worst decision they have in front of them.

Brian Lenihan is conveyed as the deep thinker, while Brian Cowen is portrayed as a bit of a clutz, particularly in one scene where he can’t work the Nespresso machine. “What was wrong with instant?” he gasps.

Clips from interviews with UCD Professor Morgan Kelly, the man who is widely regarded in the economic fields for forecasting the scale of the housing market crisis, are featured prominently in the movie, as does that infamous clip of the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who came out saying those talking down the boom should commit suicide.

The film, dotted with symbolic references such as Brian Cowen addressing a press conference about the state of the economy, while staring into the eyes of a young child holding a teddy bear, a symbol of the impacts on Ireland’s future, this film essentially brings us back in time.

If you know nothing about the bank guarantee before going to this, it will give you a good overall sense of what happened. Entertaining and giving an insight into our not so distant past, this movie compellingly captures an important part of Irish history.

Source: WildCard Distribution/YouTube

The Guarantee is available on 3player for the next 30 days. The movie is out on release on 30 October. 

WATCH: This trailer for The Guarantee will fill you with righteous anger>

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