Mark Womack, Andrea Lowe, John Bishop
Director: Ken Loach
In Our Name
Joanne Froggatt, Mel Raido, Chloe Jayne-Wilkinson
Director: Brian Welsh
The title of Ken Loach's latest film alludes to the road between Baghdad's international airport and the city's heavily protected governmental and embassy district, called the Green Zone. It's on this route that Frankie (John Bishop), a Briton working for a private security contractor, dies in mysterious circumstances. What follows is a conspiracy thriller which sees Frankie's best friend, retired soldier-turned-mercenary Fergus (Mark Womack), trying to piece together the truth behind the deadly event.
True to Loach's political stance, Route Irish is basically a treatise against the West's meddling in Iraq. What's not typical of this Loach film, however, is its abundance of gunfights, bloodshed and explosions, which relegate the human trauma to the background of the story.
It's ironic that the film's most telling moment comes in a confrontation between Fergus and Hakim, a Kurdish musician who Fergus has roped in to make sense of the videos and messages in a cellphone Frankie left behind. When Hakim learns why Fergus is so worked up, he berates him for only caring because a white man is dead. 'How about the Iraqis?' he says, in a comment that could be a spot-on critique of Loach's view.
More nuanced is first-time filmmaker Brian Welsh's In Our Name. What it lacks in budget it makes up with a focused, nuanced look at the problems British soldiers face as they return from duty in Iraq to find their home a strange land, too quiet and cold for their liking.
At the centre of Welsh's film is Suzy (Joanne Froggatt), who has just returned from a 14-month tour in Basra. While her appearance suggests otherwise, she suffers from nightmares and paranoia.
Froggatt gives an astounding performance as the troubled Suzy, relaying precisely the anguish of not being able to exorcise her demons while having to put on a forced fa?ade so as to keep her own military career on course.
In Our Name is much more layered than Route Irish, a film that feels undercooked when compared to Loach's other work.
Extras: no extras for Route Irish; feature commentary from Welsh and producer Michelle Eastwood for In Our Name.