The Patrol (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/02/2014

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Watchable British army drama enlivened by strong performances, impressive location work and a provocative script, though the final act is underwhelming and the framing structure is poorly conceived.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Tom Petch (an ex-army veteran), The Patrol is set in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where an eight man British Army patrol (Nav Sidhu as Smudge, Ben Righton as Captain Richardson, Owain Arthur as Taff, Nicholas Beveney as Sol, Daniel Fraser as Johnny, Alex McNally as Ginge and Oliver Mott as Stab) are busy fighting an invisible enemy. With their initial three day mission stretching into two weeks, their equipment constantly failing and their handed-down tactics increasingly unclear, tensions erupt within the patrol, leading some of the men to question their role in the war.

The Good
Petch's cast of unknowns deliver impressive performances, imbuing their characters with distinct personalities and sparking convincing chemistry as a unit. Stand-outs include Nav Sidhu as constantly carping Smudge, Owain Arthur as wisecracking Welshman Taff and Oliver Mott as fresh-faced newbie Stab (short for Stupid T.A. Bastard).

Petch's provocative script has an air of authenticity about it, both in the litany of frustrations and the unspoken class divisions within the patrol: Richardson is an obvious public school type and there's an effective running joke surrounding his inability to join in with the group's banter. On top of that, Petch makes strong use of his striking locations (with Morocco doubling for Afghanistan) and the action sequences are decently staged considering the film's presumably limited budget.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the framing structure is poorly conceived - Richardson is heard giving an interview in voiceover (indicating that the film is a flashback), but the context is never made clear - the audience is left to draw a particular conclusion at the end, but the ambiguity is misguided. Similarly, the voiceover backfires because it leads you to expect a dramatic incident that never materialises.

In addition, the final act feels disappointingly inconclusive, as if there was another twenty minutes planned (including the aforementioned never-materialising dramatic incident) but the money ran out before they could shoot any of it. That said, Petch should at least be commended for avoiding easy sentimentality and cliché, even if his climactic confrontation scene is ultimately underwhelming.

Worth seeing?
The Patrol is a watchable British Army drama with strong character work and a palpable sense of justified frustration, but the under-developed script means that it's ultimately disappointingly light on plot.

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Content updated: 16/08/2018 22:43

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