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Route Irish Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 09:23
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Mark Womack, Andrea Lowe, John Bishop
Certificate: 15

Ken Loach moves from Looking for Eric to Saving Private Frankie with this bleak war-themed drama. Fergus (Womack) and Frankie (comedian John Bishop) were best friends. They grew up together, went to school together, shipped off to Iraq together. Not as soldiers, you understand, but as mercenaries with a security firm; a company making profit from the privatisation of Britain's war efforts (hello, political subtext).

When Frankie dies on the titular road between Baghdad airport and the army-occupied Green Zone, it seems like a straightforward loss of life. But when a mobile phone turns up and reveals the slaughter of an innocent Iraqi family, Fergus starts suspecting something a little more sinister.

Asking questions and angering authorities, Fergus blunders around in a heat of guilt and post-traumatic stress. You can tell he's angry because he has stubble and shouts a lot, but it's a nice conflicted turn from Mark Womack, who carries Paul Laverty's script with a decent intensity. But some notes just don't ring true - in particular, his relationship with Frankie's widow, Rachel (Lowe). But if unlikely romantic liaisons aren't your thing, there's a high amount of Skype action and even a bit of full-on water-boarding. Yes, really.

Bringing the fight onto home ground, Loach lurks around a cloudy Liverpool with a keen sense of how kitchen sink life can be shattered by a military past. He doesn't jiggle the camera about like some kid on Ritalin, which is much to his credit, even when he throws in the odd explosion. Part conspiracy thriller and part character study, Route Irish finds a hazy middle ground that appears muddled, but actually makes for compelling viewing.

An exploration of grief and army practise, Route Irish is a provocative piece with a resolution that lies less in government cover-ups and more in the mundane deception of routine. And no, I don't know why John Bishop is in it either. But he's quite good.


More focused than In the Valley of Elah, Ken Loach's Iraq movie doesn't let its topic feel dated. A solid bit of film-making.


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  • andrea lowe
  • green zone
  • in the valley of elah
  • iraq
  • john bishop
  • ken loach
  • kes
  • looking for eric
  • mark womack
  • the wind that shaked the barley