Loach in war on Route Irish
War is just business. Just ask Julius Ceasar, Attila, Napoleon, the Krupp family of cannon fame, Bayer which produced the Zyclon B for the Nazi gas chambers, the small European factories that make the landmines covering Afghanistan’s countryside, banks who launder dirty money, the African warlords, or the vice-president of former president George W. Bush, Dick Cheney. Stressing this is perhaps necessary, because showing the truth is still a revolutionary act.
Ken Loach, whose Route Irish [+see also:
film profile] is screening in Competition at Cannes just two days before the festival end, a direct jab to the smile left on our faces Looking for Eric [+see also:
interview: Cannes 2009
interview: Steve Evets - actor
film profile]. This UK/French/Italian/Belgian/Spanish co-production is his harshest film yet, both politically and visually. There is none of the humour that often characterizes the films of the 73-year-old British director and his loyal screenwriter Paul Laverty.
Route Irish takes its name from the notorious street that connects the Baghdad airport to the "Green Zone", the most dangerous street in the world. Loach has always spoken out against the occupation but had never tackled it with a film. He does so now through the former British soldiers working for private contractors in Iraq.
Many of them, like Fergus (Mark Womack), mourn the friends lost in the conflict and are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fergus has returned to Liverpool to lick his wounds and live with his demons. His only rendezvous is with anger, over the funeral of Frankie, his inseparable childhood friend.
Fergus cannot forget the moment he convinced Frankie, a former paratrooper, to join his security team in Baghdad. Ten thousand pounds a month, tax-free. Now Frankie is in a coffin, killed by a missile that struck his SUV on Route Irish. Also at the funeral is Frankie’s woman Rachel (Andrea Lowe), whom Fergus has always loved (her name is tattooed on his bicep and he tells her "Frankie and I always shared everything, except you.").
Fergus doesn’t buy the official explanation of the attack and starts his own personal investigation with Rachel’s help. Frankie saw something in Iraq that he wasn’t supposed to see, and was killed by his colleagues. Fergus wages an all-out war against the security company that turned them into "criminals ready to fill their pockets with money". After Iraq, the company intends to go to Darfur to work in security, war machines and the gigantic business of reconstruction.
Loach catches us off guard with high-tension, war action scenes (shot over a week in Jordan, which Kathryn Bigelow also chose for The Hurt Locker), torture (of the kind conducted in Guantanamo) and explosions, to create a dark political thriller with the help of the incredibly oppressive photography of Chris Menges, who returned to work with the director after 20 years and recent experiences with Stephen Daldry (The Reader [+see also:
film profile]) and Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada). Presenting the truth is still a revolutionary act for Loach.
(Translated from Italian)
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