DirectorKen Loach Initial DVD releaseApril 16, 2002 Duration CountryUnited Kingdom
Release dateNovember 21, 1990 CastFrances McDormand (Ingrid Jessner), Brian Cox (Kerrigan), Brad Dourif (Paul Sullivan), Mai Zetterling (Moa), Bernard Archard (Sir Robert Neil), John Benfield (Maxwell) Similar moviesBlackhat, The Dark Knight Rises, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), Salt, Silent Hill, The Poughkeepsie Tapes
TaglineMurder... Torture... Corruption... The Truth Can Never Be Buried.
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Hidden Agenda (1990), directed by Ken Loach, is a political thriller about British state terrorism during the Northern Irish Troubles that depicts the fictional assassination of an American civil rights lawyer.
The film opens with an Orange walk on The Twelfth, and a tape being handed to an American human rights activist, which becomes his death warrant. It begins with a quote from Margaret Thatcher insisting that Northern Ireland is part of Britain. It ends with one from a former British intelligence agent, stating, "There are two laws running this country: one for the security forces and the other for the rest of us."
Investigator Peter Kerrigan (Cox), assisted by Ingrid Jessner (McDormand), investigates the killing of Paul Sullivan (Dourif), an American civil rights lawyer and political activist in Northern Ireland, whilst he was accompanied by a Provisional IRA sympathiser. The investigation reveals that the two men were shot without warning. A mysterious tape recording surfaces, made by a Captain Harris, an ex-army intelligence officer, now in hiding, of senior military leaders and Conservative Party politicians discussing how they arranged the rise to power of Margaret Thatcher. Eventually, Harris gives a copy of the tape to Jessner, but British security forces kill Harris, and blame his death on the IRA. Kerrigan is blackmailed into silence about the conspiracy. Jessner still has the tape, but without Harris to authenticate it, the recording can be dismissed as a forgery.
Frances McDormand as Ingrid Jessner
Brian Cox as Peter Kerrigan
Brad Dourif as Paul Sullivan
Maurice Roëves as Captain Harris
Ian McElhinney as Jack Cunningham
Mai Zetterling as Moa
Michelle Fairley as Teresa Doyle
The production was originally set up at Columbia Pictures in 1987, when David Puttnam ran the studio. After Puttnam was ousted, Loach had to find new financial backing, and eventually found it with John Daly who ran Hemdale Film Corporation.
Hidden Agenda was praised for its honesty and complexity, as well as its resonance. It was criticised for a simplistic view of the Northern Ireland Troubles as an anti-colonial war and for portraying the Troubles as an adjunct to British rather than Irish politics.
Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected 18 reviews and gave the film a score of 83%.
Hidden Agenda won the Jury Prize at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best European Film at the Goya Awards. At the Festival press conference, the Northern Irish critic Alexander Walker publicly denounced the film as IRA propaganda.