Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DVD Review: Route Irish

Route Irish
Directed by: Ken Loach
Written By: Paul Laverty.
Starring: Mark Womack (Fergus), Andrea Lowe (Rachel), John Bishop (Frankie), Geoff Bell (Walker), Jack Fortune (Haynes), Talib Rasool (Harim), Craig Lundberg (Craig), Trevor Williams (Nelson), Russel Anderson (Tommy), Jamie Michie (Jamie), Stephen Lord (Steve), Najwa Nimri (Marisol).

Note: This review was written within days of my seeing Route Irish at TIFF in 2010. As far as I know, the film was never released in North America - and yes, there is a reason why-, and is just now getting a DVD release - so I thought I'd post this.

There are few directors as socially conscious as Ken Loach. For the past 40 plus years, Loach has been making films, and all of them have a political bent to them – for him politics and cinemas are forever entwined. It was only a matter of time before Loach turned his camera onto the Iraq war – in fact I am amazed it took him this long to finally do a film on it. I am also surprised that Loach decided that this was the story about Iraq he wanted to tell – a Death Wish type thriller.

The movie opens with Fergus (Mark Womack) at the funeral of his best friend Frankie (John Bishop), who was killed along “Route Irish”, a highway leading to the Baghdad airport in Iraq. Frankie worked for one of those “private security firms” operating in Iraq, and was only there because Fergus had convinced him to sign up and come with him. But while Fergus was safely back in Ireland, Frankie was still there when the jeep he was riding in explodes, and he gets killed. From the eye witness reports, Frankie was just “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Fergus refuses to accept this line of reasoning though, and wants to know everything about what happened to his friend. His interest becomes more intense when get a cell phone delivered to him that Frankie wanted him to have. On that cell phone is a video in which an innocent Iraqi family is gunned down by someone else working for the security firm, as Frankie tries, and fails, to stop it. Does this video have anything to do with Frankie’s death? Is there some great conspiracy within the security firm that wanted Frankie dead so he couldn’t tell what he knows? What do you think?

It takes Fergus about half the movie to unravel the plot and swear vengeance. The film then devolves into a series of scenes in which Fergus tracks down the people responsible for Frankie’s death and makes them pay for it – including one memorable scene where he water boards someone (which apparently they really did to poor actor Trevor Williams when they realized that simulating water boarding didn’t look real enough).

I’m not sure what it was about this story that Loach felt that he needed to make. He has made thrillers before sure, but this one seems a little too rudimentary for his tastes. Yes, he gets to get his political points in – making the corporate war machines the bad guys – but that’s a little too obvious isn’t it? He doesn’t really dissect either the war, or these corporations, in any meaningful way.

Yet, once I got past the idea that Loach was going to do something more intelligent, and simply gave in to the Death Wish like theatrics of the film, I did find myself enjoying it a little more. Mark Womack may give a one note performance in the film – all righteous anger – but he holds the screen with a commanding presence. The film has many memorable images – not just the water boarding, but other acts of violence as well.

It’s just that I expect more than this from Loach. I expect something more intelligent, a movie that actually has something to say, and I don’t think in Route Irish that he really has anything. It’s like he felt he had to make a movie on the Iraq war – everyone expected him to do it years ago – and jumped onto the first project that allowed him to do so. Route Irish certainly is a horrible film, but it’s not all that good either.

No comments:

Post a Comment