Route Irish (film)

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Route Irish
French theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Loach
Produced byRebecca O'Brien
Written byPaul Laverty
StarringMark Womack
Andrea Lowe
John Bishop
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyChris Menges
Edited byJonathan Morris
Sixteen Films
Why Not Productions
Wild Bunch
Distributed byArtificial Eye
Release date
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Route Irish is a 2010 drama-thriller film directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty. It is set in Liverpool and focuses on the consequences suffered by private security contractors after fighting in the Iraq War. The title comes from the Baghdad Airport Road, known as "Route Irish". The film was a British-French co-production. It was selected for the main competition at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Philip French, in The Observer, wrote that the film reprises several themes in Loach's films, such as state-sanctioned crime, the brutality of war, the exploitation of the underclass and harsh treatment of native populations.[1]


The film opens on a ferry in Liverpool, as Fergus Molloy (Mark Womack) remembers the final messages sent to him by his lifelong friend Frankie (John Bishop), whose funeral he is to attend. The night before, Molloy unseals his friend's coffin to see his friend's badly injured corpse. At the funeral, Haynes (Jack Fortune) a director of the private military company that Molloy and Frankie worked for, gives a eulogy praising Frankie and describing military contractors as the "unsung heroes of our time". Afterwards, Haynes and Walker (Geoff Bell) explain to Frankie's family the circumstances of his death, though Molloy remains embittered and closely questions the two men. Later at the wake, Molloy attacks Haynes when he sees him distributing his business card to enlisted soldiers there.

Marisol (Najwa Nimri) bequeaths a package to Molloy, which Frankie had entrusted to a mutual friend with a note asking it be given to Molloy. With the help of Harim (Talib Rasool), an Iraqi musician, Molloy discovers a video on the phone which shows a member of Frankie's team killing an innocent Iraqi family a few weeks before his death. Molloy becomes suspicious, and has friends still working for the firm in Iraq investigate the incident, but it has not been recorded.[1]



Ken Loach's company Sixteen Films co-produced the film with France's Why Not Productions and Wild Bunch. It received funding from France 2 and North West Vision Media.[2] Principal shooting took place on location in Liverpool with one week of shooting in Jordan, standing in for Iraq.[3] The film reunited Loach with cinematographer Chris Menges who had worked on several of the director's films in the past, including Kes.[4] The character Craig was played by actual Iraq war veteran Craig Lundberg, whom the writer had encountered while doing research. The waterboarding scene was performed for real on actor Trevor Williams, after the results had not been satisfactory during earlier attempts at merely staging the act. Despite the knowledge that he was safe, the filming left the actor deeply disturbed and caused "weeks of panic attacks".[5] For a Ken Loach film, Route Irish uses an unusually high amount of stunt scenes and pyrotechnics.[3]


Route Irish was first shown on 20 May at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, in competition as part of the official selection. According to festival general Thierry Fremaux, the film was not finished in time for the ordinary cut-off date. However, producer Rebecca O'Brien submitted it anyway as soon as it was ready, and it was accepted as a late addition only two days before the festival started.[6] Ken Loach said in an interview that the team never considered having it ready for Cannes, but when it turned out that they were ahead of the schedule the French co-producers pushed for a submission.[4] The film was released generally in France on 16 March 2011,[7] and on the 18th in the United Kingdom.[8] It was nominated for a Magritte Award in the category of Best Foreign Film in Coproduction in 2012, but lost to Romantics Anonymous.[9]


  1. ^ a b French, Philip. Route Irish – review The Observer, 20 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011
  2. ^ Staff writer (17 November 2009). "Route Irish Finished Filming". Archived from the original on 20 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  3. ^ a b Calhoun, Dave (24 November 2009). "On the set of Ken Loach's 'Route Irish'". Time Out London. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Mark (19 May 2010). "After an unexpected detour into comedy, the old Ken Loach is back with an angry look at Iraq". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Waterboarding 'traumatised' actor in Ken Loach film". BBC News Online. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  6. ^ Staff writer (10 May 2010). "Route Irish by Ken Loach, 19th film in the Competition". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  7. ^ Diaphana webpage for the film Retrieved 31 March 2011
  8. ^ Route Irish Retrieved 31 March 2011
  9. ^ Engelen, Aurore (10 January 2012). "Nominations announced for 2nd Magritte Awards". Cineuropa. Retrieved 12 January 2013.

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