Combining a Falklands story with the broader theme of institutionalised bullying within the armed forces, this provocative and punchy drama attacks both issues with fierce intelligence. The basis is the true story of a young British soldier who went missing during battle, was presumed dead, and accorded a memorial service with full military honours. Some weeks later, Private Deakin (Thewlis) turned up alive. The name has been changed, but fiction takes over properly when Deakin, an awkward embarrassment for his Lancashire village community, returns to barracks. Their hatred fuelled by tabloid stories of Deakin's alleged desertion, two fellow soldiers (Fulford, Lonsdale) organise a kangaroo court martial. Although Greengrass' direction is a shade televisual, Martin Allen's tough, polemical screenplay confronts the core issues without losing sight of the characters' individual psychology. Most tellingly, Allen demonstrates that the soldiers' systematic brutalisation of Deakin is provoked partly by their own insecurity, their realisation that the dividing line between heroism and desertion is wafer thin. Thewlis is superb as the confused Deakin, with excellent support from Bell (his father) and Fulford.
Cast and crew