If you're Irish, the film informs us, you'll remember where you were when you heard the news of Veronica's death. A journalist for the Dublin Sunday Independent, she was primarily known for her exposure of scandals in the catholic church until, in the mid-nineties, she stumbled onto what she considered a far more important issue. Making known criminals her sources, she began to write about the antics of the local gangsters responsible for heists, murders, and the fact that in 1994 15,000 people a day in Ireland injected heroin. Unsurprisingly, this is a tale of how, as she looked deeper into the world of the über-dealers, she also got deeper and deeper into trouble.
Cate Blanchett's is a sympathetic portrayal of a very complex character. Guerin was clearly a very intelligent and tenacious woman, yet like many a crusader, so determined was she to bring the baddies to justice and help their victims that she neglected and endangered her family in the process - brushing their concerns for her and their safety aside with the fey naivety of one who really believes that 'no-one shoots the messenger'. The risky combination of feminine wiles and schoolmistress sternness she employed upon her psychopathically dangerous criminal prey seems about as sensible as a time-bomb; her fiercely confident attitude, even in the face of severe personal injury and threat from aforementioned villains, may have concealed her fear but could never have been enough to protect her.
But we do not, after all, expect that she will be protected. From the outset we are reminded of the fact that this is the story of a real person, who is already really dead, and who will be dead again by the end of the film. Here is a martyr in the war on drugs, as Guiseppe Conlan was a martyr in the misguided British war on the Birmingham 6 (cf. that other real-life northern Irish tale, 'In The Name of The Father' - which, incidentally, also features the soundtrack appearance of the hallmark 'harrowing Irish film' voice of Sinéad O'Connor).
After the painfully sad but inevitable finale, the filmmakers (producer: Jerry Bruckheimer - 'Pearl Harbour', 'Black Hawk Down'; director: Joel Schumacher - 'Falling Down', 'Phone Booth'; screenplay: Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue) are quick to reassure us through stats-laden subtitles that her death was not in vain, since the public outrage at her killing prompted the Irish government to reform the laws previously enabling supercriminals to live in the country in tax immunity, and to imprison (most of) the people Veronica was trying to catch. Not all is victory, however, as perspective is restored by the grim figures on the numbers of journalists killed in the course of their work in the year following Veronica's death.
'Veronica Guerin' is an occasionally grating mix of gritty realism - real accents (well done Blanchett), real people, real grim industrial landscapes (cf. the crap faux-Oirishry so often seen in American depictions) - and the kind of Hollywoodized gangster action interspersed with light cliche which has you weeping at the finale to a child's rendition of 'The Fields Of Athenry'. Nevertheless, some big Hollywood filmmakers have restrained themselves more than usual here, got together with some good Irish/English actors and screenwriters, and produced an excellent version of one extremely courageous woman's story.