[about son joining the Army]
What's wrong with him ending up like me, huh?
You go off to a shit hole and you hate it. You come back home and you hate it. It's not exactly a recipe for a happy life.
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Highly promising first part of an enthralling drama
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
It was inevitable that at some time there would be some sort of film made about the major, still on-going war of the 2000s, the invasion of Iraq, and the first part of Peter Bowker's solid, compelling war drama serves as a brilliant introduction to the main characters and the unsavoury, corrupt tactics going on in the hell of the conflict.
We open in April 2003, a month after the invasion of Iraq, where para troopers Mike (James Nesbitt), the level headed voice of reason, Danny (Stephen Graham) a cocky, wise cracking scouser and Hibbs (Warren Brown) the well to do lad of the three, are sent with a group of other soldiers in their regiment to secure a building in Basra where Taliban troops are lurking but innocent civilians must also be safely evacuated. Needless to say, things don't go to plan and while the other members of the squad put themselves out to rescue a fallen comrade, Mike tries to save the life of a small girl critically injured in the fighting, only to find the local hospital lacks the equipment necessary to treat her. Cut to three months later, and they've all returned home after their tour of duty. Mike has a loving wife and son, but he's grown apart from them in one way or another. Danny has no stable family, only a mother riddled with dementia who no longer recognizes him and Hibbs is unable to find a life that suits him better than serving in the forces. While Mike spearheads a campaign to get the little girl he saved treated in a Manchester hospital while pursuing an extra-marital affair with the doctor brought over to treat her, Danny is lured into the murky and cut-throat world of private security...and Hibbs is thinking of joining him.
Shot in a grey, murky camera lens, the film still manages to bring real air and vibrancy to it's themes of hope and possibility clashing with despair and dead ends. It also begins to tread the ground of men thrown into chaos and anarchy who return home to 'normality' and find it hard to adjust. It's estimated more soldiers die after their tour of duty than during combat, due to such factors as alcoholism and suicide, and while this part doesn't touch on anyone suffering any horrible nightmares or flashbacks, you at least get the feeling of men who have been to war and now in one way or another don't know anything else. You also start to get the feeling of the corruption of the American stranglehold over proceedings going on in Iraq, able to exploit cash and power in a lawless land not in control of it's own reconstruction money.
Performances wise, Nesbitt is solid and dynamic in the lead role, but special mention must go to fast rising star Graham in support as the loose cannon ex squaddie, with wise choice roles such as this building his profile in a great way. There's good support, too, from Brown and Cass star Nonzo Anozie as Danny's partner in cahoots.
This is a great first part to what will grow to be a fantastic exploration of men of war. ****
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