In September 2008, the Irish government guaranteed Irish banks, effectively protecting them from failure at a high cost to the taxpayer. The decision to guarantee so-called ‘Toxic Banks’ was taken overnight, but the trouble began years beforehand. The Guarantee takes a look at the fateful night in 2008, which changed the face of Irish banking, and the years that led up to this.
If you are an Irish person over the age of 18, you will have heard of the banking crisis that contributed to the worst recession seen in years, and the panic that surrounded it; including the claim that if this was not done, there would have been no money in Irish ATMs the following day. Chances are you will have also debated taking all your money out of Irish banks and hiding it under your mattress, since the sky was falling and we were all screwed. Six years later, we know this was not quite the case, and while The Guarantee tries to refresh our collective memory, there is really nothing here we have not seen before.
The performances in the film are, for the most part, fine. It’s hard to play the role of a well-known Irish politician in an Irish film without the performance turning into caricature, but this is just about avoided in The Guarantee. Some of the talking heads are a little ridiculous though, as are the choices to make some of the group scenes look and feel like a theatre production, rather than a fully-fledged feature film. As well as this, some of the characters are introduced to the audience, but we are left to figure out who the others are. Not saying that we have a selective memory of the past, but trying to figure out who people are from the decisions they make is more than a little distracting.
The Guarantee is based on a stage play, and is adapted for the screen by the play’s author Colin Murphy. The screenplay tries to untangle much of the jargon surrounding banking, to make it easier to follow, but in focusing much of the film’s time on the lead up to the crisis, it loses its punch. Margin Call succeeded because it took place inside the negotiations of a failing investment bank, but much of the actually guaranteeing of The Guarantee takes place behind closed doors, which takes much of the intensity out of the film. As well as this, there is very little in the film that has not been released into the public domain already, so The Guarantee tells audiences little that they don’t already know.
Director Ian Power just about makes The Guarantee a watchable affair, but there are times when the performances don’t match up; some actors feel as though they are in a stage play and others, a TV movie of the week. The film feels rather messy, with focus given to the wrong moments, leaving The Guarantee muddled and rather more confusing than the real life events.
The Guarantee is a film made for those who hid their heads in the sand at the time of the crisis six years ago. For the rest of us, The Guarantee does not tell us anything we don’t already know, focuses its energies in the wrong places and feels a little too much like a stage play to fully work on the big screen. A shame; there is a story here, but The Guarantee is a missed opportunity.