Today: April 10, 2024

Route Irish

After his peculiarly upbeat dark comedy Looking For Eric in 2009 (one man’s struggle for inspiration guided
by the spirit form of Eric Cantona – much better than it sounds on paper),
director Ken Loach returns to familiarly bleak territory with conspiracy drama Route
Irish.

Fergus, (Mark Womack) an ex-SAS soldier and mercenary returns
to Liverpool from his highly lucrative contracting job in Iraq for the funeral
of his childhood friend and partner Frankie (John Bishop), who has been killed along
Route Irish, the “most dangerous road in the world”, the road from Bagdad
airport to the green zone.

Overcome with grief and struggling with the knowledge that
his friend as a fellow contractor was in the Bagdad, not for patriotism but
simply for money, Fergus is forced to examine his motivations for doing the
job. But something doesn’t sit quite right with Frankie’s death and his suspicions
deepen when he receives a package containing a mobile phone and he gradually
becomes convinced this is part of a deeper conspiracy to protect the high-stakes
contracting company.

The aftermath of war is familiar territory for film making.
It has similarities to 2009’s The Valley Of Elah in which Tommy Lee Jones investigated the mysterious death of his son
on a military base also spurred on by evidence found on a mobile phone. It also makes a more dramatic companion
piece to last year’s ITV mini-series Occupation in which James Nesbitt and Stephen Graham played
soldiers choosing careers after returning from war.

Loach eschews the flashy zooms and the choppy cutting that a
filmmaker like Paul Greengrass might have made – any comparisons to Green
Zone or Bourne are quickly dispelled in the opening ten minutes. Instead
he uses a much more realistic approach to the camerawork – long takes with
powerful silences, ferocious dialogue and little music. However, the detachment that works very
well in creating a sense of psychological desolation also causes Route Irish’s
pace to flag in the middle and dialogue to occasionally sound stilted.

It’s a film grounded by the very personal story of its lead
and stays focused more on words than action – Fergus’s grief quickly turns to
rage as he looks for someone to blame for Frankie’s death – it’s the first time
he’s had to really examine the consequences of his actions.

The is emphasised by Harem – an Iraqi musician to whom
Fergus turns for help with translation who laments that the needs of the Iraqi
people are usually overshadowed by the desires of corporations and
governments. It’s certainly a
point that bears repeating but it verges on the preachy and the
characterisation of certain individuals eventually makes you distrust anyone
who has a posh accent, wears a suit or heaven forbid, plays golf – that pretty
much marks you as a villain from the outset.

For the most part, it’s an earthy drama, not a
balls-to-the-walls thriller but its strength is actually its restraint – in focusing
the frustration and emptiness that Fergus feels (he owns an expensive but
tellingly empty flat), it forces the viewer to re-examine the stark realities
of war’s aftermath – the violence feels significant and brutal (there are no
glorified fisticuffs here) and deaths are never trivialised.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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