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The Patrol: The British War Film takes a realistic Look at the Fighting in Afghanistan

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War films have and always will be popular; whether it’s Michael Caine fighting in Zulu or Jessica Chastain tracking down Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, audiences will always flock to a battle film. The genre sees several new releases each year, some new and interesting, some generic and flawed. But none have ever been quite like The Patrol. The new British indie film is destined to be controversial because of its realism, subject matter, and its ex-soldier writer and director, Tom Petch.

The film focuses on a British unit of six men who are tasked with the seemingly simple mission of aiding the Afghan National Army and keeping the Taliban from taking the territory. Typically, everything goes wrong and they are caught up in the dangerous and unending Operation Icarus.

The film is proving popular with critics, despite its low budget and lack of household names. It was also named Film of the Festival at the 2013 Raindance Film Festival.

It is very much an indy film; if you want an action movie with plenty of explosions and special effects then The Patrol is not for you. Tom Petch had a very limited budget and therefore the action is mostly in the distance. In fact, there are no direct shots fired, which gives a surreal feeling and unknown fear that the actors play on superbly.

Instead of unnecessary and expensive explosions the film focuses on the relationship between the soldiers and looks at the war through their eyes. The unit is made up of different classes and characters, which causes inevitable clashes and sees the men becoming demoralised as the fighting continues. The overall feel is one of frustration at the war and provides an authentic insight the feelings of the men on the front line.

The film should be authentic; Petch himself is ex-military; he served with the Queen’s Own Hussars and the Special Forces. This first-hand experience of battle has allowed him to write a film that provides the audience with a realistic view of the frontlines. This realism is making the film somewhat controversial, especially as the troops Afghanistan are currently being drawn out and the government wants people to see the war in Afghanistan as, if not a success, then certainly not a complete mess. But Petch is not making a propaganda film, far from it, he wanted to show the frustration and chaos that the soldiers suffered due to the policy decisions being made about the war. Though this realism has been displayed somewhat in other mediums, especially books, filmmakers have been somewhat reticent to show the true experience of war from the soldiers’ point of view.

Petch found this especially true when he was trying to get the film made; it proved almost impossible to get funding as nearly everyone he took it to turned it down. Eventually, he and his team managed to scrape together a very small budget. But they used it to great effect; with the focus on the characters instead of how many tanks they could blow up.

The lack of support Petch received shows that big studios saw this film as controversial. With many people believing it to have been a waste of time and worse, as 446 British soldiers were killed since 2001, the Afghan war is clearly a touchy subject, and it took a brave man to tackle it.

But, will viewers see it this way? Or will they feel that it is a story that doesn’t need to be told? One thing is sure; The Patrol is definitely a film that will get people talking, which is really what any great piece of art should do.

More info on The Patrol film at IMDB