Directed by Robert Lenz, In the Land of Saints and Sinners casts a sober look at a fraught Ireland in the mid-1970s. Starring Liam Neeson and Kerry Condon, who received an Oscar nomination last year for her performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, the film measures the clash between their characters, both of them resort to questionable choices of leading their lives by dint of their circumstances.
In the Land of Saints and Sinners (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The film opens in Belfast in 1974. We are directly thrust into a covert operation by an IRA group who’ve set a bomb by a pub. Things seem to be going as decided until a bunch of school kids linger near the fatal spot that would soon blow up. Doireann, the lone woman of the group, balks at the unexpected casualty of children, but it is too late to hold off.
The narrative shifts to a quaint village, Gleann Colm Cille, in Donegal, edging to the countryside of Ireland. This is where the IRA foot soldiers are hiding out. It is a pretty small, tightly knit community that hobnobs together, where everyone knows everyone else, essentially the staple village life that is overly familiar to anyone remotely acquainted with Irish cinematic fodder. It is an expectedly picturesque village, with staggering scenes of cliffs, rolling greenery, and an enveloping, rippling seaside beauty and calm. Amidst the serenity of trouble-free folks, we meet Finbar (Liam Neeson), a senior hired assassin.
His public identity is that of a small-time bookseller. He is a quietly active but beloved member of his community, always ready with his generosity in anyone’s time of need. An Ex-army man, it is after his wife’s death he took to this self-determined path of wiping all rotten people off his hamlet. After a series of missions and an epiphany on a particular task, he decides to quit and advises his handler, Robert (Colm Meaney), to rope in the rambunctious Kevin (Jack Gleeson).
Unlike Finbar, Kevin takes glee in his missions and seems perfectly suited to take his place. Kevin has his own California dreams but has had a hapless, sorry life, deprived of guidance and kindness. Taking the counsel of his neighbor, Rita ( Niamh Cusack), for whom he has a tender liking, Finbar starts work at his own little garden and other niceties by which he can carve out a new, peaceful life.
A Storm Erupts
Finbar’s life, however, doesn’t remain unperturbed for long. He notices bruises on Moya ( Michelle Gleeson), the daughter of the local bartender Sinead (Sarah Greene). Incidentally, Sinead happens to be the widow of Doireann’s brother. The bruises are the work of Curtis (Desmond Eastwood), another of Doireann’s brothers. Subsequently, Finbar goes about looking into what caused the bruises. Moya is reluctant to open up. She attempts to run away from home, fearing the wrath of Curtis, who routinely harasses her and makes her bring food and other essentials. He discovers the exacting details of the relationship between Sinead and Curtis.
Finbar is jolted to take action when he finds a bullet in Moya’s possession. He convinces Robert to allow him this last mission, who insists on keeping out of this business. Moreover, Finbar gives an unsuspecting Curtis a ride, driving him to his favorite dumping spot. A tussle ensues between the two, Curtis jabbing him with a knife. Finbar is at a disadvantage in the tense situation when Kevin suddenly pops up, shooting at Curtis, instantly killing him.
How does Doireann discover Curtis’ death?
Doireann is distraught when there is no whereabouts of Curtis. Her cohorts are more eager to abscond to a foreign country where they would be safe from anyone’s prying search. They wish to leave Donegal right away, but she, in her authoritativeness, manages to hold them up and adhere to whatever she has on her mind. Subsequently, she lands at Robert’s and demands information. With a gun aimed at him, frightened Robert confesses it is Finbar who has killed her brother.
She shoots Robert and goes after Finbar. She reaches his house and finds no one but Rita. Their exchange is unpleasant, and she punches her, Rita dropping unconscious. Finbar and Kevin, who were watching from a distance, immediately bring in medical assistance. Doireann intuits Finbar would be at the match, where she arrives. The two strike an agreement that he would disclose who killed her brother at the local pub.
In the Land of Saints and Sinners (2023) Movie Ending Explained:
Does Doireann kill Finbar?
Finbar hands Kevin money by which he can make a new future in California and leave this bleak life of killings behind. Finbar reaches the pub for the appointment with Doireann. The pub is packed. Finbar directs Moya, who surfaces at the pub to show her mother the cat he has given her, to go home. Doireann meets Finbar, her cohorts carefully standing vigil parked at various corners of the pub and outside. Finbar is about to admit to her it’s him who killed her brother when Kevin shows up, distracting her.
The interaction escalates to a heated extreme, exploding in a shootout, leaving Kevin dead. Doireann sustains fatal wounds, her associates get killed, and Finbar follows her as she stutters to the church. A poignant moment is shared when she asks him to just shoot her, and he tells her to make her peace with god. She bleeds to death. The next morning finds Finbar moving away from the village, perhaps to make a fresh start somewhere else. The film ends with the promise of a restoration of peace to the village that seemed to be on the brink of devastation.