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!
It’s time for another, terrible confession from my youth. When I was young, I used to do terrible things to ants. Magnifying glasses, cups of water, prisons built from Lego, electric cooker rings, boiling water, all were used to make life (and indeed death) an unpleasant experience for scores of these little creatures. (What am I saying? I hate the little bastards even now. They get everywhere and you can’t ever sit down in ‘the countryside’ without finding them trying to climb all over you. In fact they’re one of my three most hated animals. And let’s not forget the ‘Ant Wars’ that I had to fight in my home a few years ago and which I blogged about from the ‘front line’ at the time.) However, as a vegan, I do feel guilty about my feelings towards these clever little insects and my treatment of them, especially when I was young and wasn’t in the position of having to deal with a full ‘home invasion’ like I was a few years ago. I know growing-up is about learning, but I’m sure even at that age I knew that killing things wasn’t the nicest activity I could be spending my time indulging in. This film has a similar(ish) theme.
2007 – Certificate: 15
Rating Details: Strong violence and language, twice very strong.
This drama was originally made for Channel 4. Depending on your point of view, it’s either very clever or very disturbing, in the sense that it manages to put you very much on the side of the main character, a child, child-killer. I don’t suppose this is in many peoples’ comfort zone, especially when you consider the real life, high-profile murders like this that have happened over the past 20 years or so. It’s very easy to wish for these sorts of criminals to just go and rot in Hell, but this film does a great job of engaging your sympathy with someone exactly like that, which is what makes it quite uncomfortable viewing. More generally speaking, it’s nicely made and well acted. I don’t think it’s giving too much of the plot away to say that I was sitting there just waiting and waiting for him to get sussed out; it’s almost a relief when he does. With the exception of a few random plot holes and contrivances, it’s all pretty believable stuff. The ending is pretty intense too. As an added bonus, it’s got Steven Pacey in it, no lesser person than Tarrant from “Blakes 7”. The best TV programme, ever!
Recommended for people who like challenging drama. Not so good if you don’t like your preconceptions challenged.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? Tough one this. Do I go for something involving the bad guy turned good, or the good guys turned bad? I know, I think I’ll just opt out and go for something a little different. A few scenes are shot at Alton Towers. Alton Towers is simply badass. Don’t. Look. Down.