Route Irish


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

Route Irish
"Route Irish just about overcomes these shortcomings in its portrayal of the de-humanising consequences of modern warfare."

Ken Loach’s prolific output means that Route Irish isn’t one of his most memorable efforts – but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely without merit. As in 2009’s Looking For Eric, the traditional personal working class stories that fascinate Loach and long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, are thinly concealed under an unusual veneer – this time a military conspiracy thriller. However, the lightness of touch, gentle humour and encouraging optimism from the Cantona picture are not to be found here.

As we have come to expect from Loach, the film is shot in an unobtrusive and un-showy manner, the focus mainly on the characters, who have to bring back the consequences of their activities in Iraq. Thus the action itself is given a backseat, and it appears that only one scene is actually shot on location, with several scenes of documentary footage and a video phone connection providing our only other glimpses of the carnage in Iraq.

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The film opens with Fergus (Mark Womack) attending his best friend’s funeral. And it isn’t long before the suspicious circumstances of Frankie’s (John Bishop) death, and the timely discovery of a mobile phone, lead Fergus and Frankie's widow Rachel (Andrea Lowe) into the morally bankrupt world of modern warfare. Frankie and Fergus were both working as mercenaries contracted in Iraq to provide safety and security out with the official military remits.

The anger that Fergus frequently displays over his friend’s death is revealed to stem from a feeling of guilt in the part he played in getting him to Iraq in the first place. As the investigation into Frankie’s death continues, it becomes clear that everyone is telling a different version of the truth and Fergus quickly sets about seeking revenge on those he deems responsible.

Loach attempts to use the conventions of the ‘political thriller’ to interrogate the corruption and profiteering involved in modern-day warfare, and succeeds for the most part. However, the film doesn’t have the visual élan or polished performances of similar films like last year’s The Ghost. Nor does it have enough action to appease the less patient, as in The Hurt Locker or Green Zone.

One pleasantly surprising thing to emerge is comic Bishop’s unexpectedly enjoyable and natural performance as Frankie, while the two leads, Womack and Lowe also provide dependable performances. However, sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted and plot exposition quite crudely handled.

As with a lot of Loach’s output there is a fatalistic sentimentality to proceedings: the feeling that none of our efforts are enough to overcome the crushing injustices meted out by those above who run the show. And as the story flies headlong through an almost Bourne-like conspiracy route, some of the subsequent scenes stretch the realms of credibility.

Route Irish just about overcomes these shortcomings in its portrayal of the de-humanising consequences of modern warfare, but doesn’t offer enough of an interrogation of the consequences of this, nor enough believably thrilling action to last too long in the memory.

Reviewed on: 27 May 2011
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Route Irish packshot
One man’s search for the truth behind the death of his best friend leads him into the murky underworld of contracted military mercenaries in Iraq.
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Director: Ken Loach

Writer: Paul Laverty

Starring: Mark Womack, John Bishop, Andrea Lowe

Year: 2010

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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