Socialist Worker

Route Irish: In the wrong place at the wrong time

by Louis Bayman
Issue No. 2244

The “private contractors” in Iraq. Fergus (Mark Womack) is on the right.

The “private contractors” in Iraq. Fergus (Mark Womack) is on the right.

When Fergus (Mark Womack) asks how his friend Frankie died on the Iraqi road codenamed Route Irish, his former bosses explain, “Wrong place, wrong time.”

Fergus is determined to find the real reason behind the killing of his fellow “security contractor”—or mercenary in plainer language.

He has returned to civilian life in Liverpool but is haunted by guilt. He goes back to the streets where he grew up with Frankie (John Bishop).

Ken Loach’s new action thriller uncovers a tale of official lies and business interests concerning the killing of Iraqi civilians.

The wrong place at the wrong time describes the life of a soldier trapped with memories of urban warfare without reason or justice.

Fergus fights for the truth, but it does not come easily.

The cameraphones and internet links that relay instant images don’t provide him with satisfactory answers.

Nor does the overwhelming force Fergus uses—leading ultimately to torture and bombing.


But the film comes to focus on his increasing desire for brutal revenge.

It leaves the wider political and economic situation around the Iraq war uninvestigated.

The situation of violent tension in Route Irish itself echoes the main characteristics of the Iraq disgrace, built on self-interest and lies, and resulting in bloody failure.

One implication is that it was the invasion of Iraq that was the real embodiment of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The uncompromising realism typical of Loach’s work is in evidence here.

But the focus on the anger of the returned soldier undoubtedly draws attention away from the wider motivations of our politicians and also of the characters in the film.

And little attention is paid to the war as experienced by Iraqis.

But this works as a drama of deliberately limited scope, on an issue that remains of great relevance.

Route Irish
Directed by Ken Loach
Screenplay by Paul Laverty
On general release now

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Tue 22 Mar 2011, 17:18 GMT
Issue No. 2244
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