The Patrol [REVIEW]

The Patrol

Looking more like a documentary than a film, The Patrol shows four days in the life of a British Army patrol sent to fight the Taliban alongside the Afghan army.

Set in 2006 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, The Patrol begins at day 9, with the 6-man patrol team stuck in a small remote Afghan village on a mission called Icarius, to secure outposts in support of the Afghan army. They are sent to patrol the area, and at the same time battle the Taliban, who are hiding somewhere in the desert. Forces are stretched and soldiers are ordered to lengthen their patrol. Morale is not very high, the men are under a lot of stress, and the radio they have only works intermittently. The men have given each other nicknames, some have their last name as their nickname, however, one soldier (played by Alex McNally) has been given the name Ginge, for obvious reasons. The men are led by Sergeant Campbell (Nicholas Beveney), and it is Smudge (Nav Sidhu) who dominates the film as the wisecracking smarty pants of the group.

Day 11: Children of the local village play ball in the background. The skies are clear with not a cloud in the sky, it is another hot day in the desert with dust swirling about. This is also the day that one of their men, Taff (Owain Arthur), gets shot, and is airlifted to base for medical treatment. They are ambushed with bullets coming out of nowhere, some bullets hitting one of their jeeps, rendering it unusable. Meanwhile, there is a mysterious man on a bicycle who appears from time to time on the local roads.

Day 13: The men are told that Taff dies. The youngest soldier, Stab (Oliver Mott) cries, he doesn't want to go on patrol anymore. The tension becomes thicker, and palpable.

Day 15: The soldiers disobey orders from the Sergeant to go on another ride along to patrol the area. The men question why they are there. Being one man down, do they really need go out on another dangerous patrol and risk their lives, and if so, for the sake of what? Questioning why he is there is Lieutenant Jonathan Bradshaw, whose wife has just given birth to a baby girl.

After 83 minutes, The Patrol is over. But it's really not quite over. You get the feeling that this film is sending the message: 'What was the point of the Afghan war'? Its subtlety conveys a political message that getting into this war was a bad idea. The men take a stand against their sergeant by not following his orders for one last patrol, as there is just no good reason to risk their lives. It's obvious that first-time Director Tom Petch, who himself served in the army as a tank officer from 1989 to 1997, is very critical of Britain's involvement in the war. The Patrol is the first UK feature film about the conflict in Afghanistan.

Winning the Best Feature Award at Raindance Film Festival last year, The Patrol was shot over three weeks in the hot conditions of the Moroccan desert. Comparisons to Lone Survivor, the just-released film about four American soldiers ambushed by the Taliban in the Afghan mountains, will be made. But The Patrol goes one better with its very realistic account of the war.

Britain is to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, after the death of 444 British soldiers, to date.