Route Irish (2010) – A Film Review
In The Navigators (2001), Ken Loach trained his camera on the privatisation of the British railways. More particularly, he wanted to depict the economic, physical, mental, and even moral implications of unfettered capitalism on a group of hitherto happy-go-lucky labourers. In a sense, with his latest offering in Route Irish, he is returning to this same theme, as he shows how the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq have become the playground of private security firms, whose actions are subject to precious little scrutiny. However, Mr. Loach achieves this by literally bringing the war back home to the streets of Liverpool and the inability of troubled former soldier Fergus (Mark Womack) to accept that his best friend Frankie (John Bishop) could have died from being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
What follows then is a not entirely successful welding together of Mr. Loach’s social justice sensibilities with the tropes of a vengeance thriller. The main problem is really with Paul Laverty’s screenplay, which lacks both the tension and ability to disguise plot twists needed to make the latter work, whilst some of the dialogue is painfully expositional. On the other hand, the cuts to footage of the bloody carnage actually being wreaked in places like Baghdad may not exactly be subtle either. However, why should anything that appalling ever be? Moreover, its insertion into a work so pointedly set in the heart of working-class Britain allows links to be drawn between how ordinary people suffer everywhere, whilst a handful of remorseless exploiters are able to profit greatly.
That said, Route Irish ultimately has the feel of a half-baked Sunday night mini-series on television. That said, the casting is excellent and Fergus does make for an agreeably angry and single-minded anti-hero here. As with The Navigators, though, it has all come at the price of his soul.