I watched the first episode which aired on BBC1 this evening. Powerful stuff. Following a high octane start, this modern day war drama focuses on three British servicemen who, following a violent tour of duty in Basra, struggle to return to normal life back in the UK. Their inability to ‘fit back in’ – something that is so often the case – sees them return to Iraq in different capacities.
As dramas go this is rather intense and episode one was just the beginning. I am not, generally speaking, James Nesbitt’s greatest fan – but he is very good in this, playing the lead role as a medic who returns to his wife and children in the north of England – but only after having met and slowly fallen in love with an Iraqi doctor during his time in Iraq.
I liked the nuanced depictions and the lack of cliché. It captured the dysfunction of the return and the total inability of those ‘back home’ to have any kind of true understanding or empathy of that which the soldiers have come from. Drug abuse, mental and family breakdowns – all ensue.
The script has been penned by the renowned screenwriter Peter Bowker, who also wrote the BBC’s Blackpool and whose new adaptation of Wuthering Heights will be seen on ITV1 this autumn. In preparing to write Occupation, Bowker worked with the charity Combat Stress, and spoke at length to members of the British military who had served in Iraq. The resulting script, says Murphy, is “really human, and incredibly accessible and engaging”.
Nesbitt agrees. “There’s bound now to be a glut of dramas about Iraq – there had to be a little grace period before the stories could start to be told,” he says. “I love the notion of our three interwoven stories, and of the terrible impact this experience has on these men and their lives.”
Well worth watching.
I’ve now seen all 3 parts. Wow. Incredibly powerful stuff, especially the final part. The pretence that war is somehow heroic or exciting is so strongly quashed. It may start like that. But the sacrifices – personal and mental – are very much in evidence and I think the storyline in this was top notch – as was the acting.
The drama also strongly served as a reminder that in war, there really are no victors, nor is there a good side or a bad. In this, the British and Americans had just as much to answer for as the Islamist militias. So much immorality and inhuman behaviour on both sides – the human condition at its worst.