The story of a private security contractor in Iraq who rejected the official explanation of his friend's death and sets out to discover the truth.
Director Ken Loach is known for his politically-charged work, and his latest, Route Irish, is no exception. Fergus (Mark Womack) is a former soldier who has subsequently earned good money working for a private security firm in Iraq. He convinces his best mate Frankie that he too can earn a small fortune by joining the same firm, and is therefore guilt-ridden when Frankie is killed when ambushed on the notoriously dangerous road to Baghdad airport (the ‘Route Irish’ of the title). The film opens with Fergus attending Frankie’s funeral in Liverpool, and joining Frankie’s family in seeking answers about his death from his employers. Pretty quickly, Fergus smells a cover-up and sets out to find out what really happened to his friend, and why the security firm are avoiding investigating the matter more fully. His enquiries lead him to discover that perhaps others in the firm – staffed largely by gung-ho ex-military types – may know far more about his friend’s death than they have admitted.
At the same time, Fergus himself is trying to come to terms with life back in the UK, and reconcile himself with Frankie’s partner, Rachel (Andrea Lowe), who blames Fergus for her husband’s death.
Route Irish explores dark themes – most notably the way in which some individuals have found an outlet for their sadistic brand of violent machismo in dubious ‘security’ organisations, which, until recently, were able to operate with relative impunity in former conflict zones. The film explores both the difficulty many former military personnel have in adapting to life away from the frontline and the way that some businesses prosper from conflict.
Unfortunately, after the success of other recent films from Loach, most notably The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006) and the more light-hearted Looking For Eric, Route Irish is something of a let-down. Although the film enjoys a believable performance from lead actor Womack, it suffers from uneven pacing. Screenwriter Paul Laverty just about holds the story together as a thriller, but it sags during the middle act, and some might find the ending overly melodramatic – particularly given the gritty realism that has preceded it.
It’s a good tale, but a shame that so many elements conspire to make the end result a little too hard going.