Review by Jack Foley
KEN Loach makes a typically powerful statement on the conflict in Iraq with Route Irish, which examines the issue from both a personal and political context.
Working once again with long-time screenwriter Paul Laverty, Loach has chosen to examine the privatisation of the campaign following the withdrawal of British troops and its implications for both the men fighting it and the Iraqi people.
Hence, his film follows the fortunes of private security contractor Fergus (Mark Womack) who decides to launch an investigation into the suspicious death of his childhood friend Frankie (John Bishop) on Iraq’s Route Irish, the stretch of road between Baghdad Airport and the Green Zone.
It’s an investigation that ultimately exposes a cover-up involving the private security firm that employed Frankie and which subsequently places his own life in danger.
Loach’s film essentially brings the Iraq conflict home to Liverpool and includes scenes of torture (by water-boarding) and military tactics (car bombs) in an urban environment that some will undoubtedly find shocking.
But his film asks pertinent questions on a very current and dangerous issue and one that the veteran filmmaker clearly feels still needs addressing.
That’s not to say there aren’t flaws. The film is overlong and almost persistently shouty/sweary, while few of the characters are likeable. It’s incredibly downbeat.
Womack puts in an impressive performance as Fergus but remains a difficult central character to be around and Laverty’s screenplay may have benefited from a touch more humanity in places (especially in his dealings with Frankie’s girlfriend, Rachel, played with similar conviction by Andrea Lowe). Their subsequent relationship never quite convinces as it should.
And there are also similarities with Paul Haggis’ In The Valley of Elah in the use of key plot devices such as mobile phones containing evidence, some of which may seem a little contrived.
That said, Loach has lost none of his bite as a filmmaker and the questions the film poses are very relevant. It’s also refreshing to find a movie on the Iraq issue that doesn’t pander to crowd-pleasing tactics, even though there are action scenes throughout.
This is gritty, real and quite often frightening in the way that only Loach knows how.
Running time: 109mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 23, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Ken Loach interview
- Mark Womack interview