Ransom ’79 (2024)


Ransom ’79 Review

As he gets older and less healthy, Charlie Bird, an experienced journalist, begins to work on what will be his last story, finding out who a gang of extortionists were that threatened to release a deadly virus in Ireland unless the Irish government paid them £5 million. Alongside him is director Colm Quinn, with whom they interview various important political figures from the time, as well as revolutionaries, criminals and detectives who were involved in the case themselves but all of it sounds too unbelievable given Bird’s declining condition and decreasing time left.

‘Ransom 79’ is a weird watch. First off, when it’s laid bare from start to finish there’s nothing about this story that isn’t completely pulpy. No wonder then that all the re-enactments throughout are shot grainy black and white while the timeline reads out in type on screen. There are times when you can tell even Charlie Bird almost forty years in the business has trouble believing what he’s hearing. It was mostly unreported and while it may have ended with something of a damp squib indeed it’s exactly the type of yarn old hacks would spin for cub reporters over some ashtray in a smoky corner of some disreputable watering hole somewhere round town.

But woven into this is also an incredibly moving and raw depiction of someone coming to terms with their own mortality while fighting tooth and nail against it because journalism is all they’ve ever known how to do. And through use of voicebanking his questions still probe away at those attached most closely involved within the investigation, peeling them back layer by layer. It’s great watching him at work, hunting around still as sharp ever before; yet really what stands out more so than anything else is just how much every single person being interviewed seems genuinely starstruck by Bird himself. One former IRA commander even clasps his hand afterwards and calls him “a man of great courage”. And that’s what Charlie Bird was, an honest broker, a fearless journalist who wasn’t afraid even when facing death.

It’s a formal and structured documentary, but every now and then some levity and humour breaks through. Quinn is very methodical and clear in the way he approaches the story itself, it feels like there’s a real sense of focus. There’s a dozen different strands ‘Ransom 79’ could have easily got tangled up in the various factions within left-wing republicanism throughout Ireland, or else Charlie Bird’s own socialist leanings and how they intersected with the story etc – though its storytelling stays disciplined and to-the-point. Even then though Quinn only ever strays from it when discussing Bird’s deteriorating health, and only in so much as how that relates to his own ability to finish the thing. For example relatively early on in fact there’s a moment where Bird matter-of-factly tells Quinn on camera that they need to plan for the possibility that he will likely not live long enough see out their investigation’s outcome.

But even after him having gone ‘Ransom 79’ remains testament right until the end of himself as always being one step ahead of his game never giving up on finding out more information about what happened or why it did so this way around.

Watch Ransom ’79 For Free On Gomovies.

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