Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011 by Adam Quigley
Hard-hitting social realist director Ken Loach took a break from sternly examining the injustices and hardships of the world a couple of years ago, delighting critics with the crowd-pleasing Looking for Eric. Now he’s back to business, at long last turning his political eye to the Iraq War in Route Irish.
Loach, whose Irish War drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2006, once again teams with his regular writing collaborator Paul Laverty, bringing us the story of a British soldier-turned-security contractor in Iraq who rejects the official explanation of his friend’s death and sets out to discover the truth. The film premiered as a last minute addition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to middling reviews. A number of critics praised Loach’s intent, but felt it was a lesser work in his filmmography. Why take their word for it though? Watch the trailer after the break.
Filled with passionate scenes of anguish, and even some waterboarding for good measure, Route Irish clearly aims to move and thrill and educate all at once. But truthfully, I think I’m just about worn out by films dealing with the Iraq War, and any hesitation I felt from the trailer was solidified by the general critical disinterest. A brief review from The Globe and Mail seems to best summarize the response to the film: “Full of fury and good intentions, Route Irish is a disappointment, unconvincing as a thriller and heavy-handed in depicting the dehumanizing effects of war”.
Nonetheless, Ken Loach’s track record has been exemplary thus far, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if his films aren’t always built to entertain, they generally have something interesting to say.
What do you guys think?
Route Irish doesn’t yet have a US release date, but will debut on Video-on-Demand the same day it hits UK theaters, on March 18.
Watch the trailer below, or at The Guardian.
Here’s the plot synopsis:
Route Irish is a fast-paced conspiracy thriller that delivers a fresh insight into the moral and political corruption at play in Iraq. As well as exploring the abuses perpetrated by private security firms on the ground in Iraq, Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty (Looking for Eric, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) examine the effects of combat on security contractors — the new “soldiers” of modern warfare – who witness the horrors of combat and are subject to post-combat stress yet receive no support from the state upon return home. Fergus (Mark Womack) returns to his native Liverpool for the funeral of his childhood friend Frankie (John Bishop), a fellow private security contractor who has been killed on Route Irish, the deadly and now infamous stretch of road between Baghdad airport and the Green Zone. Refusing to accept the official account of his best friend’s death, Fergus launches his own investigation, fuelled by the discovery of a cell phone on which Frankie had recorded the shooting of an innocent Iraqi family just days before his own death. As his investigation ramps up — via frequent skype conversations with former security colleagues in Iraq and his interrogation of security firm officials in the UK — Fergus soon draws the heat of those he is investigating and a once dirty foreign war is transferred to the streets of Liverpool and pursued on home turf.