Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

Critics Consensus

Director Adrian Shergold doesn't shy away from the darker elements of the movie's subject, and Timothy Spall is mesmerizing as the title character.

79%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 53

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,776
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Movie Info

Following in the footsteps of his father and uncle before him, Albert Pierrepoint joins the "family business" in 1934. He rises through the ranks to become the most feared and respected executioner in the country, hanging more than 450 people in his lifetime. Living a double life as a master hangman, and a grocery deliveryman and loyal husband, Pierrepoint's obsession to become the "Number One" executioner in the country results in his selection as executioner for some of Britain's most infamous murderers and Nazi war criminals. But this brings notoriety, shattering Pierrepoint's guarded anonymity and turning him into a minor celebrity. When public opinion turns against capital punishment, Pierrepoint becomes a scorned man and is ready to give it all up, but fate has other plans in store for him. A devastating, true-life story of Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's most notorious hangman.

Cast

Timothy Spall
as Albert Pierrepoint
Juliet Stevenson
as Annie Pierrepoint
Eddie Marsan
as James Corbitt
Cavan Clerkin
as George Cooper
Ian Shaw
as Percy
Maggie Ollerenshaw
as Mary Pierrepoint
Joyia Fitch
as Elizabeth Volkenrath
Claire Keelan
as Jessie Kelly
Scott Davidson
as Josef Kramer
Sheyla Shehovich
as Irma Grese
Paul Ready
as Anthony David Farrow
Keiran Flynn
as Neville
Tobias Menzies
as Lt. Llewelyn
Ben McKay
as Timothy Evans
Mary Stockley
as Ruth Ellis
Michael Norton
as Josef Kramer
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News & Interviews for Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

Critic Reviews for Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (22) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (11)

  • The key to the film is in the performances by Spall and Stevenson -- and by Marsan. The utter averageness of the characters, their lack of insight, their normality, contrasts with the subject matter in an unsettling way.

    Nov 2, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Grim and disturbing yet perversely riveting.

    Jun 22, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The movie grows more compelling in the latter half as British public opinion turns against capital punishment and Pierrepoint begins to have his own doubts.

    Jun 21, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The very title of this movie seems to message its doom. What could possibly be dramatic enough about Britain's last hangman to carry our interest over a 90-minute film? A whole lot, it turns out.

    Jun 15, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • [The film's] grittiness instantly adds to the historically and socio-economically convincing picture of working-class Yorkshire in the last century.

    Jun 15, 2007 | Rating: 3/4
  • Very much a bookend to Vera Drake in its mixture of post war British reserve and ugly reality. [Actor] Spall makes it work, creating a little man with big and terrible secrets.

    Jun 15, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

  • Nov 21, 2011
    Timothy Spall is Albert Pierrepoint the most highly proffessional and praised hangmen in 50s britain, here, we see him doing his job anomymous to his friends and local community, and then finally his secret coming out, after a stink executing war criminals, a look back at a time when executrions was a case of taking a guy into a room and its over before we know it, but his methods and preperations were the best and well regarded within the system, a interesting look at the time, good production value, and spall on fire in a role with lots of emotion throughout.
    scott g Super Reviewer
  • Feb 26, 2011
    <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/pierrepoint-13961848"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/13/96/18/13961848_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <B><I>PIERREPOINT</I> (2005)</B> WRITTEN BY: Bob Mills and Jeff Pope DIRECTED BY: Adrian Shergold FEATURING: Timothy Spall. Eddie Marsan, Clive Francis, Juliet Stevenson, and Eddie Marsan GENRE: DRAMA PLOT: A glimpse at how Albert Pierrepoint coped with his job as executioner, as well as how the unusual nature of his jemployment, and subsequent lack of anonymity affected Pierrepoint's life and relationships. COMMENTS: <I>Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman</I> is a dark, grim character portrait that doesn't shy away from the depiction of corporal punishment. The film tells the real life story of UK executioner Albert Pierrepoint, who dutifully and unpretentiously served the state from 1932 to 1956 dispatching from 438 to 608 prisoners (depending upon which sources one consults.) Among those who met their fates at the end of Pierrepoint's rope were the notorious Ruth Ellis and scores of Nazi war criminals. <I>Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman</I> documents Pierrepoint's start , noting his family antecedent in the profession, before presenting a basic biographical overview of the executioner's lifstyle, relationships, and career highlights. There are some surprises twists, historical anecdotes and ironies, including the eventual public disclosure of Pierrepoint's vocation and how it affected him professionally and personally. All the while <I>Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman</I> gradually assembles a compelling character study in a manner that is as plodding and steady as Albert Pierrepoint's personality and progress through his career. Like a surgeon whose reputation depended upon his ability to amputate a limb with record speed in the days before the widespread use of anesthetic, executioner Albert Peirrepoint hanged the condemned in a fast, forthright manner to minimize the subject's morbid anticipation of the event. He would rapidly enter the death row cell, handcuff the sentenced prisoner, lead him to the gallows in an adjoining room, pull a hood over the subject's head, put the rope around his neck and spring the trap door. This was all performed as quickly as possible in one fluid sequence. Pierrepoint had it down to about thirteen seconds. Deliberately detached from his work by necessity, given his grim duty, and seeing his actions merely as those of an agent of the state, Pierrepoint managed to shut out the philosophical ramifications of his duty as much as possible by reducing the procedure to a mathematical process. Taking pride in his craftsmanship, finding artistry in his application o the principles of physics, Peirrepoint delved into calculations based upon body weight, build, musculature (especially in the neck), dropping distance, as well as length, type, thickness and resilience of rope. Executing his duties with the precision of a surgeon, Pierrepoint aimed to break the condemned's neck between the second and third vertebrae, causing instant death. Not enough rope length results in death from strangulation, and too much pulls off the hapless subject's head. Pierrepoint's impersonal, reserved adherence to routine is the most salient aspect of his executioner manner, leading the observer to conclude that he is unemotional, but it turns out that he is anything but. Pierrepoint does not show emotion for the fate of the condemned, a matter he concludes is out of his hands and not for him to question, but it is there. Additionally, he harbors strong feelings concerning the treatment of prisoners postmortem. Believing that those accused, once executed, have atoned for their crimes, Pierrepoint insists upon respect and dignity for the deceased. He goes so far as to prep the executed for burial, knowing that no mortician will care to properly undertake the duty . There is a wryness to the film in that Pierroint and his friends see him in his professional capacity as being merely a hardworking, humble civil servant. Their refusal, perhaps inability to grasp issues and ramifications beyond the immediate and obvious bestows upon Pierrepoint and his fellows a sympathetic quality. It also generates a certain macabre undercurrent of droll humor regarding both the profession of executioner as well as various attitudes attendant to it. Combined with the historical aspect of the plot, the result is a story with depth, featuring characters about whom one takes a genuine interest. One final note. I did some homework to determine how historically accurate the picture is, and found have taken only very minor license with the facts. I discovered something else, too. Not everybody realizes that the word "hung" is not the proper past tense of the verb, "to hang" when referring to the condemned. The correct word is "hanged." Here's a simple rule for remembering the proper verb tense:<B> Horses are hung. Men are hanged.</B> Just a bit of gallows humor for you there. <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/pierrepoint-13961855"><img src="http://content9.flixster.com/photo/13/96/18/13961855_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:120px;font-size:10px;text-align:center;"></div><a href="http://www.flixster.com/videos?videoId=11136144"><img src="http://i.ytimg.com/vi/cPHSw2X22Eg/0.jpg" border="0" /></a><div style="font-size:10px;width:120px;text-align:center;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"><I>Pierrepoint</I></a> - trailer</div>
    Pamela D Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2010
    Excellent performances, particularly Timothy Spall in the lead, highlight this story. A man of deep compassion who was able to perform the job of executioner, feeling that they had already been judged, by looking at it as a duty and providing the condemned with as quick end as possible. Hardly a light entertainment this is more of a chamber piece for those who prefer realistic drama.
    jay n Super Reviewer
  • Apr 04, 2010
    Falls into the same trap as most biopics: brilliant central performance, average everything else.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer

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