Spall is the perfect character actor for the part, managing to convey both a strange sympathy and sadness as he stares into the eyes of his doomed charges. All of Pierrepoint's notable executions are reconstructed here, against a rolling backdrop of British social history that gives Shergold's film an added dimension. Pierrepoint reached the peak of his career, and the height of his reluctant celebrity, when he was commissioned to hang the World War II German military prisoners, male and female, who had operated the Nazi death camp at Belsen. Later he came to be regarded with much greater ambivalence as a lethal symbol of the state. He had always tried to keep his job under wraps and was rather shocked when he became a hero for a time. He was equally surprised when the whole abolitionist movement swept the country and made him into a hate figure.
The only nagging question that remains unanswered is why Pierrepoint, or indeed anyone else, would want to be an executioner in the first place. The film won the audience award and the Kodak photography prize at the British Film Festival in Dinard.Distributor: IFC First Take
Cast: Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Cavan Clerkin, Eddie Marsan, Christopher Fulford, Ian Shaw and Maggie Ollerenshaw
Director: Adrian Shergold
Screenwriters: Jeff Pope and Bob Mills
Producer: Christine Langan
Rating: R for disturbing images, nudity and brief sexuality
Running time: 94 min.
Release date: June 1, 2007 LA