As a new film about the history of violence in Northern Ireland is about to hit theatres across Canada, tension and riots in the region — The Independent has called it the worse violence in a decade — are again making headlines.

Last week, rioters in north Belfast clashed with police in the newest wave of violence, which comes as the film Fifty Dead Men Walking is set to open across Canada.

The volatile life of Irish born Martin McGartland is and epic tale of intrigue that begs for big screen treatment.

McGartland was barely out of his teens when he fell in with the IRA and, after witnessing their less than kind methods firsthand, decided instead to become an informer for British intelligence, immersing himself in a dangerous and terrifying double existence that he barely lived to tell about.

But tell he did, and McGartland’s 1997 autobiography Fifty Dead Men Walking has now been turned into a film, written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Kari Skogland (The Stone Angel).

The film stars 21’s Jim Sturgess as McGartland and Grindhouse’s Rose McGowan as his long suffering — and oblivious — girlfriend. They’re two actors who have been cast against type with surprising results.

“That’s why I wanted to do it,” says Skogland of her off kilter choices. “I think Jim brings that boyish intensity that I wanted Martin to have for this period in his life and Rose was just fantastic.”

Since his cover was blown, the real McGartland has been living in hiding from the IRA since the early ’90s, even surviving a recent gunfire attack at his home that many — including Martin — believe was an assassination attempt.

“He will always be in danger,” says the filmmaker, “he’ll never be able to emerge. I actually never even met him, we had to only have a conversation on the phone because of how perilous the situation is.”

And although McGartland’s story commands a hot bed of controversy, Skogland is adamant that her film isn’t only grounded in politics.

“I used the book as a template to tell a story of humanity, of an average kid caught in an extraordinary situation.”

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