Shooting For Socrates (DVD)

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Shooting For Socrates (DVD)

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60% positive

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Review of "Shooting For Socrates (DVD)"

published 18/05/2016 | spanielize
Member since : 13/04/2014
Reviews : 73
Members who trust : 63
About me :
busy at new job
Pro Philosophical David & Goliath tale
Cons You probably had to have "been there" to really appreciate it
Did you enjoy it?
Characters / Performances
Special Effects

""We're Not Brazil, We're Northern Ireland""

Is that you, Jaakey?

Is that you, Jaakey?

Release date: June 12, 2015 (United Kingdom)
Director: James Erskine
Music composed by: Andrew Simon McAllister
Screenplay: James Erskine, Marie Jones
Producers: James Erskine, Victoria Gregory

Running time 88 minutes.

DVD available on Amazon from £10.99 new.


(Film only review)

Or should I say "Fill-im" as it is pronounced.

(At this point, I hesitate to warn of a spoiler alert as the result is at the crux of the movie and all that it conveys. If you don't know the end, you don't want to know the end, and you think you might possibly want to watch this purely to see what happens in the end - go and make a cup of tea instead of reading.)


It says a lot about the psyche of the North of Ireland, that we can take a tragedy, and turn it into, if not a triumph, at least into a positive.

Take the Titanic. Horrific loss of life on the iconic but ironic maiden voyage - and yet today, Titanic is a by-word for success. The Titanic Visitor Centre was voted Europe's top Visitor Attraction of 2015 - and our own RICHADA was one of last year's 700,000 visitors, reviewing it in his epic "Belfast-iad" cycle. Titanic doesn't mean a disaster anymore. It means, "big" and "mighty", stands for heritage and hard work. From a regenerated Belfast, to potato crisps and even tea bags, the name Titanic is stamped with pride. Typically of the dark Northern Irish humour, we all acknowledge that it was "Alright when it left here" and despite the catastrophe, it endures as something deserving of celebration.

"Shooting For Socrates" follows this sentiment, and like the movie "Titanic", although you knew what happened in the end, it was still worth a watch. And a very enjoyable one at that.


On a high after their first ever 1982 World Cup success (beating the Spanish hosts and coming top of their group in the first round) Northern Ireland has once again qualified, and prepare to head to Mexico '86. Tommy and his dad watch the qualifying matches with an excitement that mounts as Tommy approaches his 10th birthday. World Cup fever is in full swing, the Troubles are at their height, Ulster is saying "No" to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, little children are being lulled to sleep by the sounds and lights of surveillance helicopters.

The Team itself, once again under the management of Billy Bingham are preparing for heat, altitude and sun protection, while TV presenter Jackie (pronounced "Jaakey") Fullerton and cameraman Albert Kirk follow and comment on their journey and progress.

Socates de Souza is a prominent player in the Brazilian team. Nicknamed "Dr Socrates" due to his doctorate in medicine, like his namesake, he is also a philosopher commentating thoughtfully on the joys of competing rather than the glory of winning. But Bingham is out to win. He has every confidence in the Team. In their Group they face Algeria, Spain and Brazil, and he informs the team that they can beat defeat them all. The team aren't so sure, but amid personal loss, religious differences and literal crossing of borders they work together.

Back in Belfast, on his 10th birthday his Dad takes Tommy to see the real Goliath, one of the huge twin cranes synonymous with Belfast shipbuilding. They climb to the top of the second crane, Sampson, and look across to the small cabin where Tommy's dad operates the titan. Tommy gets an addition birthday surprise - a Northern Ireland Mexico 86 shirt, which he wears as he watches the Brazil match at the local working man's club with his family while the country (both parts) and the world look on to see if the men in green can qualify to the next round.


Though not very authentic, the obvious absence of effing and jeffing, and offensive sectarian language allows this film a PG rating, which is of course appropriate and inclusive given the subject matter. It was also refreshing to have this omission - "Shooting for Socrates" is no "Crying Game" (or maybe it is, if you consider the result).

It is very much an old-fashioned David & Goliath story, and although Goliath is the victor, David still comes out on top. And Goliath himself isn't the bad guy - just the big guy. As for Belfast itself and its spectacular shipyard cranes, it's worth bearing in mind that David doesn't figure - they are named Sampson and Goliath, two Giants - no "wee man" - that role is saved for the people themselves, content to be the underdog and happy to turn even failure into their own brand of success.

There is also a very prominent theme of always being "on view" thought the movie - we are being watched from without and within. The opening credits show familiar news footage of Northern Ireland, as the world sees the conflict. Residents walking down their streets look through their neighbours' windows to watch them - and in turn the inhabitants are watching their TV screens. The screens show many things - one moment the ebullient spectators screaming "Yes" at the qualifying Northern Ireland versus England match, the next, Ian Paisley protesting and encouraging his supporters to say "No".

Folk are being watched from on high too - the army helicopters watch the city of Belfast at night - while the persistent Fullerton follows the team on altitude training in New Mexico, getting too close for comfort in a helicopter of his own.

During the tournament North and South of the border the same matches are screened - and the reaction is the same regardless. During one match there is despair at a breakdown in transmission - which leads an heroic Fullerton and Kirk to trespass into the forbidden tunnel to get a signal.


John Hanna looks nothing like the real life portly Bingham, and thankfully is not trying to, but he sounds exactly spot on. Never shy of trying to make a bob or two, from selling the team sun cream or taking "benefits" for arranging interviews with selected players, I don’t know how true this was to the man, but that at the time he was in everything but the crib. I will always remember the ads he did for a local cooked meat firm - and I still believe that the lads probably did sit down to a ham piece* each night after training.

Conleth Hill (Varys in Game of Thrones) as Jackie Fullerton is outstanding – his performance can’t be fully appreciated unless you know of the man himself. News items leading up to the movie’s release tell (correctly or not) that Fullerton’s own wife mistook movie scenes for archive footage.

Richard Dormer (also of GoT - you can tell it is filmed in NI, all of our actors are in it) is gentle and thoughtful as Tommy's dad. Though schmaltzy at times, I actually quite like that and it is not a manner that is usually associated with the given accent - when you turned on the news in the eighties all you heard was Ian Paisley yelling "never" while Gerry Adams' voice was replaced by an actor.

Bronagh Gallagher (The Commitments, Pulp Fiction) is beautiful and elfin as Tommy's mother, but trust me, no-one’s Ma looked like that in the eighties. Glossy black rockabilly style hair, with a sculptured fringe was not what you’d see in Belfast – or anywhere else I suspect. A ghastly mullet perm or a Princess Di copycat hairdo would be much more probable. However, despite the design discrepancy she does play his the role well - she preferred smoking outside to watching the soccer at the start - by the end she was singing in the street with the rest of them.

Art Parkinson is charming as Tommy, naive and full of wonder, but even he had the potential to be sucked in to the poison of the conflict (until his Da put him right of course). One thing I will say to the props department, no matter how deprived and behind the times Belfast was, Tommy would have had a BMX bike and NOT a chopper in 1986!

The Trouble with "The Troubles"?

As with any story set in 1980s Northern Ireland there is no getting away from it. If conflict is the essence of drama then the Province has it aplenty. It makes the underdog seem even more of an outsider - but one who overcomes and even embraces differences when faced with a common objective - where the spirit of celebration at the achievement of just getting there brings jubilation even in defeat.

Final Score

I've given "Shooting For Socrates" four stars - although I thoroughly enjoyed, and identified with it, quite honestly it is one of those stories where you really do have to "have been there" to fully enjoy and appreciate what it has to offer. Perhaps if soccer is your specialist subject, then you'll know the story and some of the characters and you may remember if not Jackie Fullerton's local coverage, at least the craic on Saint & Greavsie.

Nevertheless, for performances and authenticity, despite the horrors of the conflict this is a gentle, uplifting movie of the underdog who still victoriously barked, despite being beaten.

Thanks for reading.

*Packed lunch/sandwiches (Ulster-Scots dialect)

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Comments on this review

  • snow_drops published 17/08/2016
    E :)
  • IzzyS published 14/08/2016
    Thorough review.
  • ANNExTHExFLAN published 27/07/2016
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Product Information : Shooting For Socrates (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Sub Genre: Football

DVD Region: DVD

Classification: Parental Guidance

Production Year: 2014

EAN: 5060238031707


Listed on Ciao since: 09/02/2016