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If you want a movie that will hold your attention and leave you feeling
like you've watched a great movie, this is it. I am not a connoisseur
of Ken Loach, or a movie snob, I just enjoy a movie that holds my
Unlike the other reviewers, I thought the characters were well-drawn and convincing. The effects used on the film itself such as graininess, washed out lomo effect, and darkness in the right places, makes this a pleasure to watch.
The over-use of the f-bomb is a real factor. Men do talk exactly like that, but for a film less would have been more.
The politics of the mercenary world are shown brilliantly and without any sense of preachiness or one-sidedness.
Just an excellent movie.
The private companies with special tasks in Iraq are since long a
problem. They aren't bound by the rules which regular armed forces
have. They also exist in Britain and this new Ken Loach movie is about
A taxi with two children is destroyed. Later one of the contracted soldiers is killed and his friend tries to find out what happened. Who are the bad guys here? That warhead in the barrack or somebody or somebodies much higher in the hierarchy? This is not a typical Ken Loach drama, since it's on the surface more of a typical war thriller than an outcry about social injustice. But social injustice becomes the main theme. Loach is one of the few remaining outraged society commentators. We shall be glad we have him.
As I watched this superb Ken Loach film I kept on being reminded of
"Get Carter". It wasn't the storyline but the imagery, the characters,
the acting, and the reasons why this film works so well. And the
central idea, as in "Get Carter", is about seeking justice for
something that has happened to someone close.
From the moment we observe the bereaved Rachel, played with uncanny realism by Andrea Lowe, walk up and symbolically thump Mark Womack's Fergus we know we are in for a tough and uncompromising movie. And, as the story unfolds, we observe Womack's troubled character go through so many transitions whilst being so convincingly set on obtaining a certain justice for his best mate Frankie (John Bishop).
And although there are complexities in unravelling who did what and to whom the basic story is very simple, so simple it tells itself right to the very end. There is no room for sentimentality in this film, no clear divide between the good and the bad, we are simply left to imagine what we might do in the same circumstances. If there is a moral to the story it is the price of justice and the cost of being a survivor when things go wrong for someone very close to you.
The acting across the board is of the highest standard but I will single out Andrea Lowe and Mark Womack for performances which are stunningly realistic, beautifully honed and so powerfully delivered. These two just hold you in their grasp whenever they are on screen.
It is not a film for everyone and the subject matter is very controversial but it achieves what it sets out to do. It makes you think about what you might do in the same situation, how far you might go, how guilty you might feel, and it does so without ever sensationalising what is going on.
I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoys being immersed in intelligent films.
Ken Loach remains the British auteur. Route Irish while definitely not
his best due to the off-script ad lib workshop style remains a powerful
and relevant film. It would have been made into a big Hollywood
thriller in the US going all the way up to the Senate and beyond, and
this is the film's strength - it focuses on squaddies - simple soldiers
- no big politics here - and the film gets its impact from that.
The plot of the man whose best friend joins up because of him then dies is mysterious circumstances in Iraq is a very strong plot - more so that most Loach films.
Set in Liverpool and Iraq the filming, the settings, the language, and even, in places the acting are crude and in your face - this is not Ae Fond Kiss or even The Wind That Shakes The Barley, this is an angry Ken, a Ken saying look this matters forget subtlety - let's just get it done.
The film is carried by Mark Womack who brings both skill as an actor and improviser and an unknown raw almost out of control energy that carries the themes and give the film its power.
All in all, while not Loach's best in terms of film, this should be his most powerful and relevant, but by opting for a crude and broad approach instead of some subtle in with the barrage - left this viewer numbed - some space and silences (Like all over Loach films have had magnificently) would have helped perhaps.
A visceral film but one that overpowers the viewer's emotions too much, one that while still very powerful doesn't linger as other Loach films have.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ken Loach has made some powerful films, but many of his works are about
worthy issues rather than being worthy art. He strongly resembles John
Sayles in this respect. And like Sayles he demonstrates a concern for
the working class, an interest in the fate of socialism, focuses on
unions, general strikes, the physical and mental state of the working
population and the formations and collapses of various political
movements. He's tackled Stalinism, the Spanish Civil War, the
suffocation of post war East Germany, the British general strikes of
the 1920s, Britain's conflicts with Ireland, the Trotskyist movements
of the 60s and early 70s and now with "Route Irish" the West's ongoing
wars in the Middle East.
Today Loach's films are mostly ignored or struggle to find distribution and/or financing. Back in the 60s, however, he was seen as a major force. His 1966 drama "Cathy Come Home", for example, is generally credited with making homelessness and unemployment a political issue in Britain, though Loach would go on to criticise the work: "It boils down to a structural problem within society," he said of Cathy. "Who owns the land? Who owns the building industry? How do we decide what we produce, where we produce it, under what conditions? You can't abstract housing from the economic pattern. So it is a political issue; the film just didn't examine it at that level."
In an attempt to make more substantial works, Loach teamed up with Trotskyist playwright Jim Allen. Together the duo made a string of dramas ("The Big Flame", "The Rank and File", "Days of Hope" etc), most of which chartered the betrayals and defeats of the working class by Labour ministers and union heads. These films valorised workers and activists, and tended to posit reforms (and socialism itself) as being impossible because of "traitorous leadership". Loach's "Land and Freedom" would later say a similar thing; that the Soviet Union's collapse (and the downfall of the Spanish Revolution) lay not with socialism, but Stalinism.
Loach then made a series of features ("Poor Cow", "Kes", "Family Life", "The Gamekeeper", "Looks and Smiles") which focused on a different dimension of working class life. Gone was class warfare, in was simple survival. These films are mostly tragedy's, Loach's characters beaten, battered, toiling, pushed into mental disorder or barely subsiding on state hand-outs. Audiences today may view these films as being ridiculously grim, but they need to be put into context. "They're the enemy in another guise," Loach wrote of British prime minister's Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher (their political parties, Labour and Conservative, both morphed into right or centre-right wing groups over the space of a decade), who supported the Vietnam War, dismantled unions, concocted anti-strike laws and began the deliberate creation of mass unemployment. The films try to shine a light on the underside of Thatcher's Britain, a form of budding neoliberalism which she described with the acronym TINA: "There Is No Alternative".
As a response to the changes washing over Britiain, Loach turned to making documentaries in the 1980s ("I'd lost direction with regards to feature films"). These delved into everything from steel workers' strikes, factory closures, British Leyland, police violence, unemployment, media censorship/ownership, British Rail and the NHS. When television stations began censoring and threatening these docs, however, Loach returned to feature film-making. His films during this period tend to be defeatist fare like "Riff-Raff" and "Raining Stones", all about a kind of guerrilla warfare, in which the individual, the now defeated working class, resists capitalism by exploiting loopholes, liberties and state granted unemployment benefits. Resistance doesn't come to an end, it's just now individual rather than collective. Sticking your neck out has been replaced by ducking and diving, perhaps best seen in "Bread and Roses".
Reinvigorated by the West's adventure's in the Middle East, Loach then made "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "Route Irish", the former linking the bloody history of British Imperialism to present neo-colonial operations in Iraq, a link which the latter film makes explicit. In the mainstream media, both films were met with venom (mostly by papers owned by Rupert Murdoch). The education secretary of Britain damned Loach for "rubbishing his own country" and "glamourising the IRA". The Times demanded that Loach be committed and likened him to pro-Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. The Telegraph deemed Loach "poisonous", though admitted that they didn't see the films ("I don't need to, anymore than I need to read Mein Kampf to know what a louse Hitler was"). Of course Loach has been making the same films for decades. It's just that now few are sympathetic to his politics.
In any case, "Route Irish" tells the tale of Fergus, a former SAS member and later private contractor-mercenary in Iraq. The film's title refers to the US military's nickname for the stretch of highway connecting the International Zone in Baghdad with the city's airport ("the most dangerous road in the world"). The film is structured as a film noir, Fergus our noir hero who investigates the death of a friend and uncovers the evils of his government. But in a cyber-age of 24 hour news, nothing Fergus discovers surprises us. We're smarter than artist, film and hero, a fact which makes "Route Irish" a dull affair. Loach is right to draw attention to covered up war crimes committed against Iraqis (often by contractors exempt from both international and Iraqi law), and is right to explain how thoroughly war has been privatised (there were around 160,000 foreign contractors in Iraq at the height of the occupation)...but the problem is that we know this and more. Outrage has long morphed into self-reflexive impotency, and Loach's neorealism, which once seemed urgent, now seems limited.
6/10 "In the Valley of Elah" meets "Silver City" meets "Green Zone". Worth one viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ROUTE IRISH is really angry and wants you to know all about it. Like all Ken Loach films it is about an oppressed Celt fighting the system. This time he's an ex-SAS and ex-PMC squaddie who refuses to accept the explanation offered by his former employers about how his best friend died in Iraq. After a cursory romance with his mate's gal, he quickly finds out that it's the corporate posh boys to blame again and so decides to go mental and take revenge. Although the trailers emphasise the action in Iraq, it's actually about the mental disintegration of an ex-soldier in Liverpool. Also, be warned that the Scouse accents are almost incomprehensible to non-Brits. Like most Loach films there's lots of excellent working class actors, gritty locations and a core of solid social drama. Sadly, like most Ken Loach films it is also absurdly partisan and preachy; his hero is almost schizophrenic in the way he switches from racial prejudice (soldiers as brutalised pawns of the elite) to loopy far- left ranting (which sounds like no soldier I've ever met) about the evils of the Iraq War. If Loach and his screenwriter Laverty could only get over their own prejudices then it would be a much better film.
In contrast to the most successful war or Iraq war film this century so
I remember going to see 'The Hurt Locker' with high hopes because I had been sold on the hype, it had a female director tipped to win awards and I really liked what she(K.Bigalow) did years before with 'Point Break' a fun(and sometimes funny for the wrong reasons) crime caper.
After the credits rolled I was in two minds(similar to when I first saw 'Point Break') because I appreciated the technical aspects of the film but something seemed to be missing... My big problem became clear when I overheard people talking on the way out. In particular, I heard two teenagers summary comments to each other, that it was 'pretty good','a bit of fun' and 'there were some really good special effects and action sequences' which to me, is a summary of what most people said to me to date about the film.
No one seemed to care that they had for the purpose of entertainment just sat, popcorn in hand, and watched a film about a war that was still ongoing outside the cinema(albeit five thousand miles away) at the same time...
So, I left the cinema feeling like Walt Disney had final cut on the production and it was financed by Haliburton and McDonalds etc. I was in a state of mild mental shock... Sickened, disgusted and annoyed with the world, to be more precise...
Anyway, I am generally interested in 'facts' and the 'details' of what is going on around me and why things happen the way they do. Cinema for me is not about entertainment. Going to the 'movies' to be entertained, escapism etc. is fine. I do it but it's a different experience. If I go to see a film about a current war I would expect it to say something meaningful.
So for me, the Hurt Locker is the benchmark epitome of total bullshit filmmaking in the 21st century and so offensive(even just in it's inception alone) on so many levels that I really wouldn't know where to start or finish for fear of ranting into oblivion...
Anyway, I have seen many documentaries, read many articles watched endless news footage, reports and interviews on the current War(S) in the middle east and I'm still not 100% sure what is actually going on.
One thing that I do know for sure though, is that all other feature length films related to the Iraq War in the past decade(apart from a few documentaries) portray the allied forces as the victims and all are dedicated to their military forces... WTF is that all about...?
Everything in the 'Route Irish' story by K.Loach, although fictional with use of some artistic license, has happened in real life!... It will also continue to happen again as a matter of fact...
If you want escapism and have to be entertained all the time then you know where to go for your fix.
Some people are still rolling out the same old polemic argument about Loach/'Route Irish' that he/the film is lefty, over-long, boring, preachy, flawed in acting,writing,direction and it sometimes looks like it was made for 50 quid. etc. etc. ...But we must appreciate him, social justice, national treasure etc. etc.
BLAH BLAH BLAH....
Trust me, the film is not perfect by any means but see it for yourself because those people are idiots...
-If you are one of them you can stick it in your Hurt Locker...
The '...unique angle*' being the people who are the real victims and the people who are really responsible...
'Cold Hard Reality is always so boring and difficult to watch.....' -Another complete idiot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A couple of years ago, Ken Loach withdrew his film Looking For Eric from MIFF in protest at the Israeli funding of the Festival, but this year he seems quite content to leave his latest film alone. Route Irish is more of a political thriller about murder, conspiracy, cover-ups, and revenge, although it is still suffused with Loach's usual angry world view and social consciousness. Written by Loach's regular collaborator Paul Laverty, Route Irish takes aim at the private security contractors who are profiting from the war in Iraq, the "cowboys" whose behaviour is not regulated by military discipline or codes of conduct. Loach doesn't pull; his punches in examining the role played by private mercenaries in the ongoing and unpopular war. Like Paul Haggis' In The Valley Of Elah this is a topical film that is critical of the war in Iraq and the murky political agendas that drive it. The title refers to that stretch of road in Iraq that runs from Baghdad airport to the allied "green zone", and which is regarded as the most dangerous road in the world. When former SAS soldier Fergus (Mark Womack, a veteran of British television) learns of the death of his best friend Frankie (stand-up comic John Bishop) caused by an IED along that road, he refuses to accept the official version. Refusing to believe that it was a simple case of "being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Fergus sets out to uncover the truth. He believes that his friend's death was a deliberate attempt to cover up a massacre of civilians by contractors. Cinematographer Chris Menges has filmed in Liverpool and Jordan, doubling for Iraq, which lends an authenticity to the material. The film is full of Loach's usual signature touches hand held camera, naturalistic approach, seemingly ad-libbed dialogue and a scathing howl of outrage against injustice. As the central character Womack delivers an intense and angry performance, and he spends a lot of time shouting his sometimes incomprehensible dialogue. Route Irish is his most topical film for some time, and has the same sense of urgency as his earlier political thriller Hidden Agenda. While it may not be amongst Loach's best films, Route Irish is still powerful stuff!
Many movies are political but just a few directors are as consciously political film-maker like Ken Loach. This work hasn't got a clear left-wing agenda like others but it's his point on the Iraki war and handles subjects discussed upon many occasions, such as the exploitation of the unemployed and war crimes. Aside from the original (in Loach's films) issue, Route Irish is a characteristic production of this director and has many grim sequences. There are also very good acting performances that keep pace with the progress of the story. The conclusion is shocking but on the whole the film is a didactic and angry thriller, in the typical style of the social realist Loach.
I almost don't want to be too honest about Ken Loach's latest. He is a
national treasure after all. But then I remember what my job here is.
'Route Irish' is different from any other Loach film I've seen. Half
the story is set in Iraq (Jordan), and uses techniques more typical of
Route Irish was, during the Iraq war, believed to be quite literally the most dangerous road in the world, where suicide bombings, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and other nasties were commonplace. Disbelieving that his best friend and army buddy, Frankie (comedian John Bishop) was KIA, Liverpudlian Fergus (Mark Womack) vows to get to the truth. Frankie, says Fergus, 'was born lucky'. If you can forgive this soupçon of implausibility from which the story emanates, you can enjoy (parts of) the film.
Twenty-four hour news makes us immune to the carnage of war. We tuck into our cornflakes while yawning at Apocalypse Now-style footage. Here, Ken Loach personalises war. He's always used film as a political medium to mirror his Left-leaning views. But there's a distinctly pluralistic advocacy on display in this film. Iraqis are at once sympathised with and blamed. The role of a soldier is both defended and upbraided. And the use of private contractors in the 'war on terror' is equally shielded and condemned.
The only bits that are worthy of Loach are the scenes of tension, for instance when Fergus explains to Rachel (Frankie's partner) that of course Frankie played around: 'Every day out there (Iraq) could be the last how can you go from that to shopping at Tesco?'.
For such a kindly codger, Loach has quite a tolerance for profanity. The 'f' word doesn't bother me, but it's overdoing it a bit when you put the likes of Tarantino to shame. As the peerless critic Roger Ebert said of another film, 'profanity is used as punctuation'.
Strangely, a full-on waterboarding torture scene has no more terror than an exploding party popper. Clearly not destined to bother the Russian roulette scene from 'The Deer Hunter'. It's in tune with the general tone of the film: big ambitions, too little follow-through.
Various technical points distracted me from an otherwise half-decent melodrama. Fergus casually lets slip that he's ex-SAS. That would imply he's a man of considerable resourcefulness. So why can't he himself extract video clips from Frankie's primitive mobile phone to establish how he died? And why does he need to conduct online conference calls to amateurs for information? What's stopping him from Andy McNabbing his own way into Iraq?
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