May 22nd 2012 04:54
Along the most perilous roadway in the world - Baghdad’s Route Irish - a British private security contractor dies. For Fergus (Mark Womack), the best friend of Frankie (John Bishop), questions remain unanswered. Frankie, never one to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, “was born lucky”, a perception that compels Fergus to dig deeper into the circumstances of his friend’s demise.
Typically forthright and confronting in its subject matter, Ken Loach’s 2010 film, named after the stretch of road that connects Baghdad’s airport and the Green Zone, hinges on the performance of Womack. The actor is asked to generate rage, confusion and growing scepticism from Fergus whilst pulling all the facets of his journey into a believable emotional context.
In flashbacks the bond between the two men is sketchily established; as are the key lead-up events which led to Frankie’s death. A mobile phone, furtively escorted to Fergus via another contractor in Baghdad, proves to be the most crucial and sought after piece of the puzzle.
A central theme of the film highlights the necessary facades men utilise to preserve the delineation between their domestic and professional selves. It’s not an original conclusion to suggest that collateral damage is eventually inflicted on the home front once darker inclinations are inevitably exposed. In this case, Frankie’s girlfriend, Rachel (Andrea Lowe), learns via Fergus of the realities of men's lives abroad, tempted by exotic cheap pleasures to cathartically stave off the persistant looming presence of death.
The political dimension of Loach’s film rears its head in subtle ways at first. But murkier depths of skullduggery up the chain of command are plumbed as the tentacles of power are exposed for their infected roots. Ultimately, however, it’s the exacting retribution sought by a turbulent moral consciousness that inflicts the most damage in Route Irish. Staunch, sobering, and finally, haunting, this may not reach the heights of Loach’s best work but with strong work from his regular screenwriter Paul Laverty, this is never less than compelling.
Route Irish is now out on DVD through Paramount/Transmission films.
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