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Movie Review: 'In the Land of Saints and Sinners' Starring Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson returns to form in the terrific thriller In the Land of Saints and Sinners.

By Sean PatrickPublished 18 days ago 5 min read
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In the Land of Saints and Sinners (2024)

Directed by Robert Lorenz

Written by Mark Michael McNally, Terry Loane

Starring Liam Neeson, Kerry Condon, Colm Meaney, Ciaran Hinds

Release Date March 29th, 2024

Published March 27th, 2024

The opening moments of the Irish thriller, In the Land of Saints and Sinners are a breathtaking piece of suspense. Members of the I.RA have just planted a bomb outside of a pub. But, just as they are about to make their escape, a family, with very young children pauses in front of the pub so that one of the children can tie their shoe. One of the bombers screams in an attempt to get the family to move but they appear confused by the screaming stranger and stay rooted in place. The bomb goes off and it's clear that this family has been killed.

It's a principal laid out by Alfred Hitchcock, the explosion isn't nearly as exciting as the ticking bomb itself. The tension isn't the damage that the bomb will do, it's the heated seconds until the bomb does what we know a bomb can do that matters in a movie. We don't see this family get murdered and we don't need to, the horror is greater in our mind by implication than it would be if we saw blood and body parts splattered on pavement.

Don't get me wrong, gore and bloodshed has its place and, in the right hands, it has been effective, but that's a different genre of film altogether. In the and of Saints and Sinners is a cerebral thriller. Rather than use big shocking violence, this is a movie that builds its emotional tension underneath, allowing it to simmer and grow into a boil before exploding. As directed by Robert Lorenz, that simmering is compelling and the boil is riveting. Then, we wait with our breath caught and our hearts pounding as we anticipate the explosion to come.

Liam Neeson stars in In the Land of Saints and Sinners as Finbar, a hitman who comforts himself with the notion that he only kills bad people for money. Finbar has killed a lot of people, hiding their bodies under freshly planted trees in a forest near his small cottage. Finbar has reached a point where he'd like to retire, give up killing, and take up a hobby like gardening. He also has his eye on a neighbor at a nearby cottage who is soon to be a widow. The pair have a sad chemistry that could become love.

But, this is a world of consequence and the consequences of Finbar's choices are that happily ever after is highly unlikely for him. His potential happily ever after is soon threatened by the arrival of four newcomers in his village. The bombers from the opening sequence have come to Finbar's village and are hiding out in a farmhouse. One of them has taken to abusing and harassing a young girl whose mother runs Finbar's favorite pub. Seeing that the girl is afraid to go home at night, Finbar intervenes.

Assuming that this is just another bad guy that no one will miss, Finbar does his thing. What he doesn't know, is that this man is a member of the IRA and his sister, played by Academy Award nominee Kerry Condon, will miss him very much. She will, in fact, do anything to find out what happened to him, including killing anyone who even has a remote notion of who killed her brother. Thus begins a battle of wills and guns between a pair of deadly individuals and the innocents caught between them.

In the Land of Saints and Sinners is not a perfect thriller but it is quite a good thriller. I want you to measure your expectations. That said, I really liked this movie. It's been a while since we've seen Liam Neeson be this good in a movie. Not having to wrestle with an American accent or some Taken-style action nonsense, Neeson feels at home in the role of Finbar. The physicality of the role doesn't call on him to beat up much younger men in less and less believable fashion. Instead, he's an old bruiser with strong wits who knows how to enact violence effectively, intelligently deploying it rather than relying on an editing team and an army of stunt men.

Kerry Condon meanwhile, is downright chilling in the role of a righteous warrior who believes in her cause and her family. She may have tried to avoid civilian casualties in that opening scene, but don't think for a moment that she mourns what happened or is haunted by it. The cause matters far more, second only to protecting and avenging her family. She's ruthless, cutthroat, and deadly and it's a terrific performance. Villains who don't see themselves as villains are often the most interesting and compelling villains of all.

In the Land of Saints and Sinners is a terrific thriller with well paced action and suspense, good characters, and smart twists and turns. Director Robert Lorenz demonstrates a strong control over tone and pacing throughout. A good example comes from the use of actor Ciaran Hinds. Hinds plays a small town police officer who provides a colorful counterpoint as Finbar's best friend who plays dumb about his friend's other life. Hinds is a tool of the plot but it's a very well used tool.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and more than 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing here on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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