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!
Altogether then, to the tune of “Celebration”, that horrible, horrible Kool & the Gang hit from 1980. Ulster Bank has finally managed to get my account details up to date; it’s only been 21 days since it broke its computer and my account stopped working. I wonder how many of the four credit card companies that haven’t been paid on time as a result of this, (“I’m afraid you won’t be able to make any manual payments from your account until it’s fixed”, said the nice man from Ulster Bank on the phone last week), will be looking to put a ‘hit’ out on me in retaliation? (Look, since the ‘Banking Crisis’ they’re pretty hot on this stuff; killing off a few, stupid late-payers will probably help the global economy no end. Yes technically it’s illegal, but since when has that been an issue for a bank?) On a more serious note, I can’t wait to see all the different bailiffs turn up on the doorstep and start fighting amongst themselves as to who gets my TV and lava lamp. So now let’s go from the Ulster Bank to a film about Ulster (sort of).
2009 – Certificate: 15 – United Kingdom
America has spent the last 37 years churning out films about Vietnam, in an attempt to rewrite history or justify it, (depending on your viewpoint). Northern Ireland is becoming the UK’s own personal Vietnam, as more and more films about The Troubles get released, to, em, ‘review’ what went on. This one does have the added authenticity that it’s based on real interviews with two men who were involved as victim and perpetrator. Liam Neeson is great as the downbeat killer, whilst James Nesbitt (who’s an Undertones fan and therefore ‘the business’ as far as I’m concerned) does a great job as the increasingly unhinged victim’s brother. It does lurch from genuinely menacing to somewhat comedic from time to time in a rather haphazard way, but what’s going to happen in the end is pretty well hidden and although it feels a bit slow at times it does keep the attention; (well it kept mine anyway). I always feel a bit crap about being entertained by films based on real life tragedies, especially ones that identify the individuals concerned; kind of like laughing at a funeral, or looking for the bodies at the scene or a car crash. I’m glad most of this stuff has now stopped in Northern Ireland. I lived there for years and I really liked it, well except the crappy weather and that fact that hardly any non-local bands played gigs there; I’m convinced I was exposed to too much country music when I was there and this has had a negative and long-lasting effect on my mind…
Recommended for people who like decent drama with a bit of an edge. (This a weak statement I know; I just can’t think of anything else to say right now.)
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? I can’t say, because it would spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it. If you have seen it then you’ll know what I mean.