Loach's film charts the experiences of an unemployed young Liverpudlian (Ian Hart) when he goes to join the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and for the first half-hour or so it seems that Jim Allen's script is going to be a sentimental celebration of fraternal unity among the good guys. Then, mercifully, things get more complex, as Hart's confusion and divided loyalties mirror the in-fighting that plagued the Left and led to Franco's victory. The film has its shortcomings - notably the didactic discussions on, for example, the ideology of collectivism - but Loach handles what is for him an unprecedentedly large canvas with aplomb. The action scenes in particular have a raw, plausible immediacy. Nor is this just a movie which simply fills us in on fascinating historical details; thanks to muscular performances (especially from Hart), it also packs an emotional punch.