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DVD Review:ROUTE IRISH

ROUTE IRISH

reviewer: Harry Davenport
Rated: 12A(UK)
Release Date: 25th May 2011
DirectorKen Loach
CastMark WomackAndrea LoweJohn BishopStephen LordTalib Rasool

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Ken Loach collaborates once again with screenwriter Paul Laverty to create this angry drama revolving around a mercenary returning from Iraq. He is intent on finding out how his friend died and who was responsible. It is considered one of Loach’s lesser works but it is a film with a lot to say and it does it in an engrossing way.

The film stars Mark Womack, who gives a great performance as a man who has made a lot of money from the conflict in Iraq but has lost his best friend and is now haunted by the images he has witnessed. He lives in a sparse yet beautiful apartment overlooking the River Mercy. It is a wonderful image of his life. Yes, he has profited from the conflict in Iraq, but it has left him empty inside. Womack is completely believable as an unstable veteran who is likely to snap at anytime.

Playing his late best friend in flashbacks is comedian John Bishop, who is charming and likeable in the few scenes he is in. Andrea Lowe plays the dead man’s girlfriend, and though she plays grieving well, the relationship between her and Womack seems a little melodramatic and a bit out of place. The rest of the cast is a mix of professionals and amateurs and as in Loach’s previous films this helps create a very realistic atmosphere. Along with the basic cinematography it makes for an accurate depiction of life in Liverpool, too.

The film is designed as a mystery story and despite having quite a simple plot it is riveting. It uses modern technology in an interesting way as Womack utilises mobile phones for surveillance and talks to mercenaries in Iraq over Skype. Unfortunatly the few sequences set in Iraq aren’t quite as well done. The action lacks a sense of danger and while on the whole this is a more relevant and interesting film than The Hurt Locker, it lacks the tension that created in its set pieces.

What Route Irish does so terribly well is to bring home the horrors and atrocities that are happening in Iraq. Loach does this in two effective ways; he uses real footage of the conflict, much like the amazing Waltz With Bashir, and when we see the devastation and death it makes the fictional elements more powerful. The other way is by bringing the chaos of Iraq to Liverpool. The second half of the film has some very shocking sequences but even when our protagonist uses violence for “truth” or “justice” it is shown as never being acceptable.

Route Irish is a gripping film that has important things to say. It is at times a hard watch due to Loach’s fury at the situation in Iraq, but it is compelling.

MOVIE RATING: 4/5

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