The tragic story that is Northern Ireland is shown in vignette by examining the “Stalker Case” of 1982. Stalker was a top-level British officer sent to Northern Ireland to investigate the shooting by police of an American civil rights activist. His highly critical investigation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was hushed up, and he went public, resigning the force. The movie purports to be a truthful account although the names have been changed.
Ingrid Jessner (Frances McDormand) and Paul Sullivan (Brad Dourif) are two internationally acclaimed American civil rights activists who are in Northern Ireland for another investigation when the IRA makes a mysterious tape recording available to Sullivan. Before he can return the tape to his IRA source, he and his driver are murdered by members of the police and the tape taken. The investigative report of the police, by the police, is biased and thus, the chase is on.
Deputy Chief Inspector Kerrigan (Brian Cox) is brought in from Great Britain to get to the bottom and, very shortly, has an overall understanding of the basic crime. More elusive, however, is the motive and the ultimate source of the assignation order. The tape he seeks contains a bugged conversation between Margaret Thatcher’s right-hand man and five leaders of business, industry, and government.
They have all agreed to politically destabilize the previous Labor government with dirty tricks and propaganda in order to install the free-market government of Ms. Thatcher which moved Great Britain from the edge of socialist economic collapse to thriving prosperity. Hence, the cover-up has come from the very top of his own government. Kerrigan struggles against the resentment of police, the whole bag of dirty tricks turned against himself and the very upper echelons of his nation’s government. His is a formidable task, aided only by the bereaved girlfriend of the slain civil rights activist and a couple of subordinates of his own.
The movie depicts the war-torn conditions of Northern Ireland, the massive buildup of armaments, the support of the IRA in some quarters (the Communist IRA has been rejected continually by the great majority of the residents of Northern Ireland), and the seige-mentality of the police charged with maintaining the peace in a setting more like civil war than civil unrest. The cinematic tone is dark and somber, not unlike the moods of the inhabitants crushed by the loss of liberties and the poverty concomitant with perpetual violence.
It tells a tale of the lengths that government will go in order to maintain control. The means the government forces use are justified only in the mind of the person who believes that the end justifies the means. The antithesis of Christian belief, that concept presumes the end promoted is necessarily the right and proper one.
On the other hand, the Bible makes it quite clear that we are to obey authority, not rebel for we follow Jesus Christ the reconciler, not Jesus Barabbas the rebel. Since this is such a bone of contention in this age of Communist revolution, though it is waning, let us look to the word of God:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
– Romans 13:1-5, 9-10 (NIV)
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
“On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
– Romans 12:16-21
Thus the movie in its attempt to call the government to account, fails to call the IRA to reconciliation. Therefore, HIDDEN AGENDA is ultimately biased and serves the same propagandistic function for which it condemns the British government. Furthermore, its methods of propaganda are twisted by its bias.
Obscenities are kept to a bare minimum, and there is no nudity, although the two unmarried civil rights activists are shown sleeping together. However, one wonders who would be interested in HIDDEN AGENDA other than politically minded college students and intelligentsia. It is not fast moving nor very suspenseful. It is more like a documentary, yet lacks the impact of being perfectly factual. Yes, it is an adequate movie–but will it play in Peoria?
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