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fter Frankie, a British private security contractor, is killed under mysterious circumstances on the "Route Irish," a dangerous stretch of road in Baghdad, his childhood friend and fellow soldier Fergus investigates the incident, determined to find out the truth behind Frankie's death.
For more about Route Irish and the Route Irish Blu-ray release, see Route Irish Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Geoff Bell, Najwa Nimri, John Bishop, Andrea Lowe
Director: Ken Loach
» See full cast & crew
Route Irish Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 3, 2011
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Ken Loach's "Route Irish" (2010) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The only extra feature on the disc is the film's original theatrical trailer. In English and Kurdish, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Fergus (Mark Womack, TV's Hillsborough, Under the Skin), an ex-SAS officer who has spent the last couple of years working in Iraq as a private contractor, has just returned home to Liverpool. His best friend, Frankie (John Bishop, (TV's Skins), is also back - but in a body bag. The man has been killed on Route Irish, a small and extremely dangerous strip connecting Baghdad Airport with the Green Zone.
Shocked by the news, Fergus begins asking questions - he wants to know exactly how and where Frankie was killed. The answers he gets anger him. After a short confrontation with Frankie's wife, Rachel (Andrea Lowe, TV's The Tudors ), Fergus launches his own investigation.
Along the way Fergus meets Harim (Talib Rasool), an Iraqi musician, who helps him retrieve important information from a cell phone a man used a few days before Frankie's death. A video from the phone shows a group of contractors firing and killing an Iraqi man and his children. When Fergus contacts his wife, all hell breaks loose.
Ken Loach's Route Irish is a dark and intense film without any shocking twists. It is structured as a conventional detective story but the focus of attention is not on the puzzle Fergus must solve; the goal of the film is to reveal why a puzzle exists and how it affects the lives of those who have parts in it without even realizing it.
Fergus' descent into hell is gut-wrenching. He feels responsible for Frankie's death because had it not been for him his friend would have never set foot in Iraq. As the film progresses, he also begins to realize that he has a lot in common with those who started the war in Iraq. All of this drives him crazy and he becomes an angry animal.
Fergus' friends, however, completely misinterpret his anger because they cannot even begin to imagine how he feels. Everything they know about the war comes from the media, carefully orchestrated by powerful people who can literally transform a fantasy into reality. Even Frankie's wife is brainwashed.
The film is easy to criticize because it does not tell us anything about the war in Iraq that we do not already know. Everything in it seems conventional, too logical to excite -- which is exactly why the film is so horrifying, because for a lot of people the war has become old news which only occasionally has to be updated.
Womack's performance is brilliant. During the torture scene he does look like a madman. His words at the end of the film are also simple but truly powerful. Indeed, it is impossible not to believe that men like him exist. Lowe's time in front of the camera is rather limited but she also impresses as the enormously hurt and disillusioned widow.
Cinematographer Chris Menges' (Kes, The Killing Fields) preference for soft grays and blues adds to the bleakness and unease that permeate the film. A gentle, very beautiful piano theme, played a number of different times throughout the film, does the same.
Note: In 2010, Route Irish was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Route Irish Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ken Loach's Route Irish arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
I am yet to see a Blu-ray release from Artificial Eye that disappoints. Everything they have released and we have reviewed has been of exceptionally high quality. There are no surprises with Route Irish -- the high-definition transfer replicates perfectly the indented by director Ken Loach and cinematographer Chris Menges gloomy, washed out look of the film. Despite the fact that some of the darker scenes look soft, detail is consistently strong. Clarity is also pleasing. Edge-enhancement is never an issue of concern; neither is macroblocking. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the film does look soft, but the softness is not a byproduct of post-production filtering. Artifacting and aliasing do not plague the high-definition transfer either. Lastly, there are absolutely no stability issues to report in this review whatsoever. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Route Irish Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (with portions of Kurdish). For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is unlikely to test the muscles of your audio system - even the raw footage with the shootouts isn't overly intense - but I believe that the wide range of nuanced dynamics will impress quite a few of you. When the piano theme is played, for instance, the film opens up very well. Additionally, the dialog is always crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Route Irish Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Route Irish Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ken Loach's Route Irish is a dark and intense film that focuses on the traumatic effects war has on security contractors and specifically their inability to reacclimatize to civilian life after they return home. The film looks terrific on Blu-ray. The only criticism I have for Artificial Eye is that we do not see enough of their films on Blu-ray. It is a shame, really, as their releases are always of exceptionally high quality. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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