‘Veronica Guerin’ And The Evolution Of Courage

by Rachel Bellwoar

Whether you’re making a film based on a true story or writing an article accusing someone of a crime, using real names carries a responsibility. Veronica Guerin knew that. As a journalist for the Sunday Independent in the 1990s — before she was murdered on June 26, 1996 — libel laws at the time prevented her from using the real names of some of the criminals she reported on. Instead, she created nicknames for them, like the Coach and the Monk, that readers in Dublin would understand. Meanwhile, her own name would appear on every story, ensuring that these criminals knew who their accuser was.

Films sometimes follow a similar practice, changing the names of characters to protect them or for legal purposes. Veronica Guerin does not. Most, if not all, of the criminals in this movie are Google-able (and the film does a good job of casting actors who resemble the characters that they play, or at least have been made to resemble them).

Besides Cate Blanchett, who’s from Australia and stars as Guerin, the film totes an Irish cast and crew and was filmed in Dublin; using many of the locations where the events of the film took place. The story focuses on the last two years of Guerin’s life, when she switched to reporting about crime and, more specifically, tried to uncover who the big drug players were in Dublin.

Guerin wasn’t someone to work behind a desk and while Kino Lorber’s DVD includes a newly recorded commentary by director Joel Schumacher, it’s the commentary by Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue that most warrants a listen. Doyle and Donoghue co-wrote the screenplay and speak with candor about how they approached adapting Guerin’s story. From acknowledging places where they had to condense the timeline, to places where — because they couldn’t know for certain what Guerin was feeling — they had to reach their own conclusions, it’s clear, after listening to their commentary, how much the film is grounded in their research.

Throughout Veronica Guerin, for example, Guerin employs a technique called “doorstepping” where she’ll drop by people’s houses to ask them questions directly. If this sounds dangerous, Donoghue explains one of the reasons she did this was so that she could report the questions she asked and circumvent libel laws.

In the commentary, Doyle, who’s from Dublin, praises Blanchett’s accent and we learn producer Jerry Bruckheimer suggested they use bookend scenes so viewers would be aware that Guerin’s death was coming.

Guerin didn’t back down to threats. A mother and a wife, she used her accounting skills to follow the money and, if she had lived, she would’ve continued to shine a light on the truth. Unfortunately, it took her death for changes to occur. Laws would be rewritten, while the turnout for marches after her death surged.

Before Guerin, journalists didn’t want to cover drugs in Dublin. It was easier (and safer) to look away. The courage she showed was immense and thanks to Schumacher’s film and Kino Lorber, there’s a chance more Americans will get to know her story.

In addition to the bonus features already mentioned, Kino Lorber’s DVD includes an opportunity to compare a deleted scene of Blanchett, as Guerin, with footage of Guerin giving the same speech; a featurette with footage and photos of Guerin, as well as short interviews with some of her colleagues; and an interview with Bruckheimer.

Veronica Guerin is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

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