A low-key, low-budget antidote to the Hollywood approach to soldiers at war
With Morocco doubling effectively for Afghanistan, The Patrol is a low-budget British film from first time writer/director Tom Petch. Although working in an oversubscribed genre running from John Ford’s 1934 drama The Lost Patrol to Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Petch squeezes something new from a familiar scenario: a group of soldiers struggling under enemy fire.
Captain William Richardson (Ben Righton) leads his men deep into Taliban heartlands in the Helmand province, but they’re low on ammo and their equipment is of dubious quality. When Welsh squaddie Taff (Owain Arthur) sustains a serious injury as the men defend their position, Richardson’s men begin to question their own position, and openly rebel against their superior officer. As the men await news of Taff’s condition, and Lieutenant Jonathan Bradshaw (Daniel Fraser) expects news of his wife’s pregnancy, they begin to turn on each other as the pressures of the war begin to affect their morale.
'You can send a teenage boy to Afghanistan, you might as well send him to the moon’ suggests one of the soldiers, and a lunar landscape would be more hospitable than the sparsely populated desert Petch’s film describes. Hardwired with technical talk and gruff meditations on the futility of war, The Patrol is a slow-burning drama that avoids comic-book heroics in favour of a tense ensemble character study.
Opening just after the considerably more gung-ho Lone Survivor, The Patrol is a low-key antidote to the Hollywood approach to soldiers at war; while there’s not much spectacle or incident to ensnare the casual viewer, the overall impression is of a well executed minor drama that casts a careful life on the inner lives of military personnel, and promises good things to come in terms of the young cast, and Tom Petch’s future career.
Limited release from Fri 7 Feb.