Monday, 16 May 2011

Route Irish (2010)

Viewing Context:
Seen as part of a British cinema double bill with Submarine at the Media Museum

Directed by Ken Loach. It was written by Paul Laverty who has worked with Loach on a number of films, including Looking for Eric and The Wind that Shakes the Barley

What happened:
Fergus (Mark Womack) and Frankie (John Bishop) are mercenaries working for a private company based in Iraq. The film opens with Frankie's funeral. His company says he died in action; Fergus is having none of it. As he digs under the surface he comes closer to the truth, but is his own narrative of what he wanted to have happened having too strong an influence on the construction of this 'truth'.

What I liked:
Real footage: An Iraqi refugee, helping Fergus decipher a found mobile phone, makes the point again and again, that this happens, it keeps happening and will keep on happening. Yet, rather than just telling the viewer, real news footage is constantly interjected. This is one of the things that elevate it from being exploitative pulp genre, into being intelligent and subversive genre.
Not a true story: Despite the film grounding these types of actions as being a reality, it never condescendingly pertains to be a true story, which is refreshing.

Just keeps happening: The injustices carried out by these companies continue to go on and continue to be swept under the rug. So it doesn't matter about the characters involved in this case, whether they are to blame or not; the problem is systemic.

Masculinity/bonding/failure to assimilate: The masculine bonds forged in warfare are almost irrevocable and therefore people become stuck, unable to re-assimilate into society. I have heard this myth rebuked before now though; with the claim that the arts make much more of this than is actually statistically true. A sort of guilt that they aren’t contributing, so the author made out. I didn’t dig into it so haven’t made up my mind on who is more full of bullshit, but thought it worth mentioning.
Dual/fractured Identity: There is one shot that shows Fergus doubly conveyed in front of some mirrors whilst on a treadmill; a symbolic way of putting this theme to the fore. Add to this, the constant restating that these marines are different people ‘out there’ and ‘back home’. This is illustrated in Fergus’s dual reaction to the atrocious video footage of the marines uncovered on the Phone. Fergus is instinctively dead against what happened when he first sees it, but he can still slip into a complete other character as he justifies, to Frankie’s widow Rachel, how and why the events would have unfolded. The fact that in the region, you need to react immediately. The film illustrates how the opposite to this lack of hesitation leads to their friend who's blind, or others with lost limbs, or even others still that are dead. Then finally on this theme, there is the sameness and the duality if Frankie and Fergus; especially in Rachel's eyes.
Truth, an elusive concept: To pack in even more sophistication, there’s some commentary on the concept of truth; how it is constructed and attained.

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