Saturday, 23 April 2011

Route Irish

Route Irish.
The Bagdad Airport Road is a 7.5-mile stretch of road in Iraq; it links the International Zone, the heavily fortified area at the centre of Bagdad  referred to in the press as the Green Zone, to the Bagdad International Airport. This road is commonly referred to as ‘Route Irish” it’s acknowledged as the most dangerous length of tarmac any where in the world, it forms the back bone of Ken Loach’s latest film.

Frankie (John Bishop).
Sixteen Films a production company formed in 2002 by Ken Loach and producer Rebecca O’Brian with writer Paul Laverty as associate director, it’s function is to make films written, produced and directed by this top class team. Route Irish (2010) is their latest offering, which was first shown at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of the friendship between two Liverpool lads Fergus and Frankie who met on their first day at school and have been close friends ever since. Fergus became a highly trained member of the UK’s elite SAS. When he resigned in 2004 he persuaded ex Paratrooper Frankie to join his security team in Bagdad, a job that pays £10,000 a month, tax-free. In return their expected to risk their lives in a city steeped in violence and terror, a city awash with billions of US dollars, which fosters a climate of greed. Back in Liverpool a grief-stricken Fergus learns of Frankie’s death on the notorious Route Irish but will not accept the official explanation and begins his own investigation into his best friend’s death, an investigation that leads to dark places in the ex SAS mans mind.

Fergus Molloy (Mark Womack)
The movie explores the corporate greed and corruption involved with the private military company’s (PMC’s) working in Iraq. These privatised organisations provide staff of a military and security nature normally selected from ex-professional soldiers. In the past these men would be known as mercenaries but, as we see the movie, are now referred to as security contractors. The companies these men work for are generally sanctioned by the United States under the notorious Order 17 which means that the contractors do not come under Iraqi law and could kill without redress, these men are not answerable to any government but only to the PMC’s grasping shareholders.

The director at work.
Superbly photographed in Liverpool and Jordan by the award winning Chris Menges who previously worked with Ken Loach on Kes (1968) The Gamekeeper (1980) and Looks and Smiles (1981). TV actor Mark Womack in his debut feature film plays the rather tragic figure of Fergus. John Bishop continues the trend in Loach films to use northern comedians; he plays Frankie the contractor with a conscience. While Paul Laverty was researching the film he interviewed a young soldier Craig Lundberg who was blinded in action, both Laverty and the director were so impressed with him that they cast him as Craig in the movie. Special mention to Trevor Williams who allowed himself to be water boarded because there was no other way of showing this government sanctioned form of torture realistically.

When talking about making films Loach was quoted as saying “The idea of a film establishment is a contradiction in terms. We should be critical, abrasive and subversive” This sums up the reason I love this mans work and he’s still producing meaningful social realist British cinema even if the bulk of the funding still comes from Europe.

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