Route Irish (2010) Director: Ken Loach (15)

I usually come deliberately late to Ken Loach movies. As he risks tackling new areas with each successive release, the chance of being disappointed by a failing new departure puts me off seeing each one – as I don’t wish to see a bad Loach movie. So, four years after it was released to fairly strong reviews at the time, I made the effort to see it. I was not disappointed, but effort was needed indeed; I was saddened, angered, enraged and yet sympathetic throughout his depiction of ordinary people and workers, who usually end up at getting hold of the dirtier end of the stick. Four years late perhaps, but the issues of British contractors working overseas in former warzones to escape UK joblessness is still relevant today, albeit rarely acknowledged. In parts it is a bit like a visceral 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' with hand-grenades – and the writing also comes with a similar sentiment.
Long-time Loach collaborator Paul Laverty was behind the screenplay and he captured the typical anger and disillusionment that is expected from characters similar to those in Raining Stones, Looking for Eric, and Riff Raff. Numerous echoes of another Loach masterpiece were apparent, and throughout it did feel that this film was the new The Navigators. No bad thing in itself, but there is often the risk with Loach that such similarities could become tedious. Thankfully he is as far away from being a cinematic one-trick-pony as can be, and on this occasion he also had his biggest budget to date to play with. It’s quite unusual to see so many explosive experts and stunt performers listed in the end-credits of a Loach film.
In sequences using genuine footage of smart weapons and helicopter gunships killing Iraqis, Loach uses sickening and thought-provoking effects, although he is already preaching to the converted when it comes to injustice and his typical viewership. Directed very intelligently, the viewer is never really sure for much of the film about the moral direction of the central character 'Fergus' who is convincingly played by Mark Womack. Some minor moans include the inevitable sex scene between Fergus and his mate’s widow happening too predictably; the good guys are ‘Scousers’ and most of the bad guys are posh, tell lies and play golf – with the really vicious bad guys being ‘Mancs’. I’m still in two minds about the final events – was it too easy an ending?
Watching a Loach film can give the viewer the feeling that their day has been ruined and will not be perked up again by anything, no matter what. Perhaps. But the truth often hurts, doesn’t it?
4/5 heavy endings