Strong and provocative biopic, starring Timothy Spall as executioner Albert Pierrepoint, widely renowned as the quickest and most humane hangman in the UK during the 1930s and 40s.
Oldham, Lancashire 1932: Albert Pierrepoint, a local delivery truck driver, arrives home to find he has been accepted for training at Pentonville Prison, to honour the Pierrepoint name and become a British executioner, following in the footsteps of both his father and uncle.
The opportunity is a dream come true for Albert, marking the beginning of the incredible career of the world's most famous executioner, who will one day officiate at the hangings of some of Britain's most notorious murderers. These included John Haigh, the acid bath murderer, and Ruth Ellis (Mary Stockley), the last woman to be hanged in Britain.
Five years on, now married to local girl Anne Fletcher (Juliet Stevenson), Albert is happily combining domestic bliss with his secret double life as a hangman. He carries out every execution with professionalism and detachment, strictly separating "the man" from "the executioner". For his own dignity, as well as that of his victims, he refuses to divulge any details of his job and it is not discussed at home.
Nuremburg 1946: the full horrors of the Nazi atrocities are unveiled to a dumb-struck world. The UK Government has only one man in mind to administer British justice to the convicted. Albert flies to Germany to face his biggest task yet; to hang hordes of Nazi war criminals, including the notorious Beast of Belsen. As ever, he completes his task with stern resolution. Yet the magnitude of his actions disturbs him. His anonymity has vanished and he is alarmed at being pestered by people wherever he goes. The secret he has so carefully guarded all these years is now front-page news.
As memories of the war recede into the 1950s, there is a shift in the public mood against brutality and, consequently, an ever-increasing presence of clamorous protesters on execution days. Albert vows never to let his emotions get the better of him and determinedly carries on with his grim duty.
Summoned to an execution at Strangeways in Manchester, Albert is unaware it will mark the beginning of the end of his career...