This powerful, compelling drama traces the fraught interwoven journeys of three British soldiers who take part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, return to Manchester, but are then inspired to revisit the chaos of Basra. Danny, Mike and Hibbs, friends in the same army regiment, have their own very different reasons to return. Danny (Stephen Graham) sees rich financial pickings in private security work, in a land awash with billions of dollars of reconstruction money. Mike (James Nesbitt) has fallen in love with Iraqi doctor Aliyah. Hibbs (Warren Brown) goes back because he believes in the mission to rebuild the country and help the Iraqi people. Life in the new Iraq however is unpredictable, chaotic and dangerous. Over the course of five years, the friendship of the three men comes under fierce pressure, as they pursue their dreams against the backdrop of growing fundamentalism, sectarian violence, and corruption in the world of privatised security. Occupation is a darkly humorous and emotionally involving story, which slowly builds to a gripping and moving finale, as their conflicting ambitions come to define not just their own lives, but the war and the occupation of Basra itself.
2009 – Certificate:15 – British Film
Rating Details: Strong language, injury detail and violence
9.5 out of 10
I went to see Bad Religion last Tuesday at Camden Koko. Whilst standing in the queue waiting to go in, (no thanks to the Tube, which thought it would be funny to have no trains in either direction running to Mornington Crescent), someone was handing out flyers for other gigs. After having one of these shoved into my hand, I took a brief look at it. FFS! What do I see on the front but concerts by Barry Gibb, Rick Wakeman, Peter Gabriel and Wet Wet Wet. I’m a baby-eating punk skinhead monster, standing in a queue waiting to see one of the best American punk bands ever and what do I get given? A flyer for two very old prog rockers, a guy who sounds like he hasn’t got any balls and the extremely well named Wet Wet Wet. If anyone at the Bad Religion gig decided to go to any of those concerts, he or she should be shot for treason. If would be more appropriate to give out money-off coupons for Bernard Matthews turkey drumsticks at the Vegan Society AGM. To say I was incandescent with fury would be to rather understate the feeling. However, I somehow managed to control my rage. Bad Religion was great. The support band Arcane Roots didn’t really do anything for me musically, but their sound was the nearest I ever want to get to being shot. Koko probably has the most powerful bass system of any venue for its size in London and they had the kick drum totally maxed out. Everything in the place just shook. I’ve never experienced that intensity of bass before, so thumbs up to the band for such an unpleasant experience! This film has some seriously intense stuff and people being shot in it too.
I always find it difficult to assess what I think of films when they’re based on true events, especially when the events weren’t very long ago; the drama and history remain so interconnected and the effects of the latter so raw and often still evolving, that it’s difficult to be objective. This is one such example. This film was originally a three-part BBC miniseries and it’s awesome. A totally absorbing and sometimes uncomfortable watch, it manages to give a real sense of the chaos, suspicion and differing world views of and in Iraq, during and after the American-led invasion, as it chops back and forward between Iraq and Manchester. It also manages to effectively explore the effects of this mess on some of the people caught up in it. It has a number of genuinely powerful scenes, the sort you just think “wow” after. It looks very authentic, the acting’s excellent and the script very nuanced. What a shocking nightmare it all was, and still is in many ways too. As an entertaining drama and as a reflection of what went on, it’s essential viewing.
There is very little music in this film. It’s there and adds nicely to the scenes when it’s used, but no one’s going to watch this movie for that reason.
No cats or chainsaws. There may or may not be a decapitation, but I don’t want to spoil what’s one of the most intense scenes in the film, so you’ll just have to watch it to find out.
Recommended for politicians and anyone who has any decision-making role relating to Syria.
Top badass moment? In a movie full of very flawed heroes, there’re plenty of would-be badass moments. But being a Brit and this being a drama rather than a documentary, I’ve had to pick out Mike (James Nesbitt) and his mercy dash with the young girl who got blown up by a hand-grenade. The hospital was a frightening example of what happens when you try to pour a gallon into a pint glass. James Nesbitt is the Undertones number one celebrity fan too!
Starring Rodney Bewes as Bob and James Bolam as Terry, “The Likely Lads” is the hilarious feature-length spin-off from the popular television series, written by acclaimed duo Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (“Auf Wiedersehen Pet”, “Porridge”). Yet again the two lovable Geordies are up to their likeable necks in trouble. It begins when Bob`s wife talks Terry and his Finnish girlfriend into touring the North of England in a caravan. And it ends with both like-minded lads running away to sea. But what happened in between adds up to the funniest, if unlikeliest misadventure of all. With a fantastic script from Clement and La Frenais, “The Likely Lads” is vintage, essential British comedy.
1976 – Certificate: PG – United Kingdom
Today I got to glimpse what life would be like after an apocalypse. I worked in my office all day and received no phone calls, no e-mails and saw no one outside in any of the other units. No disturbances, no grief, no hassle. Now, does anyone know anything I could do that would really, really piss off the Russians? This film was made at a time when words like Internet, mobile and voicemail didn’t even exist. Blimey, what on earth did teenagers and executives do with themselves all day?
When I was growing up, “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads” was probably my father’s favourite TV series. (Well it was either this or The Benny Hill Show.) I think he could relate to the characters in it. It provides a small but indelible element of my childhood memories from the early-mid 70s. He’s sadly been gone for many years, but the programme remains and a couple of years ago I watched both series of it, along with its early-mid 60’s predecessor, “The Likely Lads”; (which confusingly has the same name as the film). I didn’t much care for the latter, but “Whatever Happened to…” is still funny today. Despite being nearly 40 years old and suffering from some of the worst excesses of 70s clothing, (like suits with flared trousers and kipper ties), the humour was often still pretty good. It also managed to contain surprisingly little that was based on race or gender stereotypes, which for a 70s TV series was pretty progressive. I was quite sad when which I finished watching the last episode, partly because I liked the link it gave me to my past, but also because I’d enjoyed watching it on its own merits. So it’s two years later now and I finally get around to watching the spin-off film that was made a couple of years after the final episode. Sadly it’s pants. Despite containing all the same ingredients as the TV series and evoking much of the same feel, as well involving its principle stars and writers, it’s just too over the top and stupid. Whilst the ridiculous situations Bob and Terry sometimes got themselves into in the TV series were often quite silly, the film stretches things too far. I’m afraid my “That Wouldn’t Happen In Real Life” alarm went off far too many times, which rather spoilt things for me. The whole scenario around the B&B was particularly awful. Still, it was good to see a Vauxhall Chevette in action. Apparently its two stars, Rodney Bewes and James Bolam, haven’t spoken to each other since this film was made, which probably means we’ll never need to deal with the confusion that a “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads” film would cause. Shame really.
Recommended for Likely Lads completests. I really can’t see many other people finding it much good.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Although it’s about as likely as me managing it, Bob getting off with the B&B owner’s daughter has to be considered badass. Real Men don’t need to try, which makes them badass.