Peacekeepers (Warriors) (1999)

 

 

 

Director:     Peter Kosminsky.

Starring:     Matthew Macfadyen (Pte. Alan James), Darren Morfitt (Pte. Peter Skeet), Cal Macaninch (Sgt. Andre Sochanik), Ioan Gruffudd (Lt. John Feeley), Joe Renton (Cpl. Gary Sprague), Steve Chaplin (Pte. Tommy Redmond), Damian Lewis (Lt. Neil Loughrey), Jodhi May (Emma), Pauline Yates (Gran), Shaun Dooley (Pte. John Hookway), Gregory Chisholm (Pte. Martin Rook), Simon Shepherd (Major 'Brick' Stone), Tom Ward (Capt. Richard Gurney), Predrag Bjelac (Naser Zec), Ifan Meredith (Lt. Jonathan Engel).

British soldiers sent to Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission and from the start they are up to their necks in troubling situations

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

 

Part I.

"In 1992 British troops were selected for the UN Protection Force that was being sent into the vicious civil war raging in central Bosnia. The film which follows could not have been made without the co-operation of those who were there. However the characters depicted are fictional."

Liverpool, August 1992.  Big turnout in the pub to watch a game of soccer. A fellow named Alan James brings out beers for his friend Peter Skeet and Peter's girlfriend Bobby (Alan's sister) who are standing outside the pub at half-time. The woman seems a bit dejected, but Alan tells her that their team will come back in the second-half.

On a farm, a son walks over to his father. They recently lost a brother and son respectively.   The brother had a tractor accident.  Next we see of him, he and his dad are pall-bearers at a funeral for the son's brother.

James is at home at a birthday party for his sister Sandra.

Lt. Feeley is walking down a corridor when he is told that he has a telephone call from Major Stone.

A nude fellow comes down the stairs to pick up the telephone. His name is Lt. Loughry. It's Major Stone calling and he says that all leaves are cancelled. The battalion is being recalled. Loughry says it can't be, because he's getting married. He goes back upstairs to his fiancÚ who is still naked in bed.

Back to Sandra's birthday. The party is in full swing now.

The son who went to the funeral for his brother speaks with his brother's gal. She tells him that he was a big hero to his brother, being in the army and all. She says his brother worked very hard to keep the farm going. She wanted him to leave it, but he said he wouldn't leave his dad behind.

A bunch of young women rush into a discotheque. They are probably connected to Sandra's party because Sandra's brother Peter and friend Alan are there too.

Sitting outside Lt. Loughry and his fiancÚ sit and plan the wedding out. He has to tell his fiancÚ that there is a slight problem. Major Stone called and the unit is being recalled and they are headed for Yugoslavia. When is he going? Tomorrow. His fiancÚ asks then there's not going to be a wedding?  She walks away from the table and into the house.

Loughrey goes in to talk with his gal. He says he couldn't seem to find a good opportunity to tell her before. He says they will get married when he gets back. He also tells her not to worry, but she is worried. She has been watching the television news and she knows the conflict is quite widespread.

The two friends continue disco dancing. Pete is dancing with the girl that is marrying a guy at the bar tomorrow. Alan notices the groom at the bar and sees him getting angry when he sees his bride-to-be dancing with another fellow.  The guy puts his beer down and is going after Pete dancing with the bride-to-be. Alan heads off the groom.  He grabs him around the neck and takes him into the men's room. There he tells the groom-to-be that he is not going to start any trouble or he won't be getting married tomorrow because he will be in the hospital.

The bride-to-be, Cheryl, is still with her dance partner when the next day dawns. She asks why did she have to meet this guy now when she is about to be married? She also says that she doesn't want to get married. Her dancing partner tells her it's just her nerves. Cheryl replies that isn't so.

Cheryl's friend sees her kissing Pete and she goes over to her and tells her she can't do this because she is getting married today. Cheryl tells her she doesn't want to get married. The friend pulls Cheryl away. When the two brothers go home they find that their leaves have been canceled.

The taller brother goes in to talk with his grandmother. She says she thinks she has found a good gift for "our Bobby". He tells her that they're headed for Yugoslavia. He's not going to be able to go to Bobby's party.

Pete goes to see his girlfriend. She asks why why does he have to go to Yugoslavia? He says: "Because I want to do something with my life." When Alan comes in, the girl tells him that he is going to have to look after Pete, "because he's useless".

The soldiers are on an air transport. They have the blue covering over their helmets. And very soon they are in white armored personnel carriers. They are in a place called Vitez in central Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Vitez, Central Bosnia, Autumn 1992. The troops go through the center of town. They gather together in a big room. The commander says that they are here to make sure that these people in Vitez don't starve.

And now for the rules. We don't take sides. We don't move refugees or start ethnic cleansing. At times the men will see things that upset them, but they must stick to the rules of engagement. "You are not allowed to fire unless your life is directly threatened."

Jajce (south of Banja Luka) has fallen, so the front line has moved to Turbe (southeast of Jajce). Any attack on Travnik (southeast of Turbe) would create an enormous flood of refugees.

In the morning the British soldiers start performing their various duties. Two fellows on guard hear somebody really screaming his head off and then hear a shot. They don't move an inch.

The British soldiers are moving out. They are going to pick up an injured Muslim boy. Lt. Loughrey speaks with their interpreter, a pretty woman named Minka. He introduces her to Lt. Feeley in the lead personnel carrier.

They reach a check point and the Serbian guard there won't let the UN personnel carriers through. They have a row of mines spread out across the road. Lt. Feeley tells the guards they are the UN and don't need permission to keep going forward. The guard goes to call his superior. Permission is granted and the UN British forces move forward.

Minka tells Feeley that the locals are Croats and the burning house is Muslim. Minka goes into a house and asks a woman if they know about an injured Muslim? The woman says she saw a Muslim boy jump out of a house window. Minka also tells the woman that she has to get out of the house in 20 minutes before the house is burned down.

Minka tells the Croats that they don't have to burn the house down. They don't listen to the UN. The residents come out of the house, while others go inside. The house is burned down.

Lt. Feeley decides to give the family a ride out of the area. Their advisor tells the lieutenant that the British can't do this. If they take the women from the house, they will be seen as being pro-Muslim.

The translator tells Lt. Feeley that they think the Muslim boy is down by the river. They find him and take him with them. They go past the same checkpoint again, but this time it is not guarded. Lt. Feeley gets off the personnel carrier and moves the mines out of the way.

But back at base Lt. Feeley is scolded for his "cavalier" behavior. Mr. Langrubber, the advisor, met with a lengthy delay when he tried to drive through the checkpoint. Langrubber also told them that he had to stop Lt. Feeley from carting off some Muslim women, and act which Langrubber says is ethnic cleansing. Aamazingly, Feeley doesn't fight back.

Loughry is talking with the translator again. Feeley goes to check on the Muslim boy. He finds on him a telephone number and the translator calls the number. When she finishes she tells Feeley that the boy's name is Herzog. His mother was crying on the phone.

The next day the British go out to check on a flow of refugees. The Serbian soldiers stop some of the refugees and check their belongings. The British watch as the soldiers steal things from the refugees. James goes over and saves a woman from further harassment and thievery. They also help the refugees get aboard buses.

Back at base Loughry calls his fiancÚ. He wishes her a Merry Christmas. He now finds out that his fiancÚ is pregnant. Lt. Feeley tells the translator this and she looks crushed. She wasn't expecting that.

A lot of local kids are invited to the Christmas party. The men sing Jingle Bells for the kids. Lots of men call home for Christmas.

Lt. Feeley goes over to a Muslim woman's home. He brings her some bananas. She says that her husband Naser is still at work. Naser comes home and welcomes Feeley to his house. He says Almira has been looking after him, yes? Yes. Naser says he studied business at Harvard University in the USA. They used to live in Sarajevo and Almira is dying to go back there.

In the morning the British go through the streets. They see a dead boy laying on the street. They see a couple of Serbian soldiers firing at someone. Suddenly, one of the personnel carriers stops dead in its tracks throwing the people inside around a bit. A call is made saying that they are under attack. One of the men in the front, Skeeter, has been hurt badly. The ambulance finally arrives and it takes the injured man away.

Pete Skeet dies. Lt. Feeley has to tell his men that Skeet is dead. Alan comes to see the body of his friend. He calls Pete's girlfriend to tell her the bad news.

Lt. Feeley sees Alan looking for enemy to kill. He comes over to talk Alan down.

The next morning the British are again stopped by the Serbs from going passed a checkpoint. The soldier in charge says perhaps they can go past the checkpoint tomorrow. So the British have to just stay there overnight until the next day.

Lt. Loughrey tells Langrubber that he thinks the fellow is a prick. The Serbs harass the British by checking everyone's I.D. and insulting them in their Serbian language. The Polish guy with the British seems to understand the Serbian language. But he refuses to acknowledge that to the Serbian leader.

The next morning the Serbs just let a few British vehicles through. Loughrey says the whole thing is a joke.

The few vehicles are let into the village. The village seems deserted. The little convoy stops. After waiting awhile the villagers all come out from one big building. The local commander is a woman. The commander wants the British to stay here so the Serbs won't attack them.  Richard, in command of the British, says that's not possible. So all the Muslims sit on the ground in front of the British convoy.

The Polish fellow with the British tells the translator that his mother is Serbian and that's where he learned the language. His father and mother were both in a concentration camp and were liberated by Allied troops.

The kids watch James shave. Just as he is going to start shaving his head, a shell lands and blows mud and dirt all over James. The people start running.

The British ask the Serbs to stop the shelling, but the Serb commander says the Serbs aren't the ones who are shelling. It's the Muslims shelling other Muslims. A couple of the British vehicles are hit and destroyed by the shells.

Richard just suddenly turns his armored personnel carrier around and leaves British troops behind. The corporal yells at him to stop the vehicle, but Richard only tells the corporal to follow his orders. At the other end of the village, the vehicle is stopped by a blockade created by the people of the village. Richard gets down and asks the commander to let them pass. He says there is nothing he can do for them. The commander agrees to let him go. Richard asks her where will she go now? She says they will try to make it to Srebrenica. Richard tells her good luck.

The people start leaving the village. The other British soldiers catch up with Richard and climb inside the vehicle. (They bring a Muslim with them in the personnel carrier.)  Richard starts the vehicle up and starts forward. He doesn't get far before he runs into the Serbs blocking his way. The Serbian leaders want to check the UN vehicle in case any Muslims are aboard. Richard says they are not searching the vehicle.

Langrubber arrives behind the Serbs. He tells Richard that he must compromise. Richard doesn't know that they have a Muslim on board. He agrees to let the back half be opened and the Serbs can look in.

The Serbian leader sees the Muslim and wants him out. James tells them the boy is not going. Richard tells James he has to give the kid up.  Next Lt. Feeley tells James he has to give up the boy. James tells Feeley that he knows what they will do to the boy. Nevertheless, James has to give the boy up.

On the way back James cries over the loss of the boy.

 

Part II. 

Ahmici, Bosnia.  Lt. Feeley drives over to the home of the neighbor woman, a Muslim married woman named Almira.  He tells her that he thinks there are some places down here in the valley that are cursed.  Lt. Loughrey gets down from his personnel carrier and says hello to a family.  The father invites them inside his home.  The home is adjacent to the land of the Croats.  Lt. Loughrey and a few others sit down for dinner with the family.  The family is a huge one.  The father asks the lieutenant if they are here to fight?  Loughrey says no, they are here to oversee the distribution of aid to the people.

Almira asks Lt. Feeley to stop by three Muslim graves at a farm.  Three cars filled with Croatian gunmen come to a farm.  They shoot the family dog and start taking items from the house.  Feeley goes to talk with the leader who says the people are being moved for their own safety.  Feeley with the help of Almira as translator says that the family seems safe here.  The man gives Feeley a dirty look and then tells his men that they are going.  Later Feeley drops off Almira at her house. 

Lt. Loughrey leaves the Muslim family.  He notices that next door the house has a blue X marked on it.   Other houses have a cross marked on them. 

Feeley sees the farmhouse he stopped at earlier.  The wife, the dog and the husband are all dead in their yard.  The man is trust up on the farmhouse wall.  They stop to check it out.  James goes up to the body hanging on the wall to cut the body down.  But the sergeant and Lt. Feeley tell him not to do it because the body could be booby-trapped.  James is disgusted by all the right things he can't do. 

Ahmichi.  The unit has to go to the aid of another UN unit.  When they reach the area they can see the flames still burning on houses and cars.  The place is filled with smoke.  The soldiers gets out of their vehicles and now find many more dead bodies.  A medic has a hard time doing his job trying to save a Muslim girl.  She is panicked over the medic touching her .  Minka helps soothe her down enough so the medic can get some morphine into her system. 

The fellows find the home in which Lt. Loughrey and his translator Minka were dinner guests all burned up.  In one of the rooms of a home a massacre of a lot of people. The large Muslim family are all dead and all  burned up.  It's a gruesome sight.  

Lt. Loughrey calls his fiancÚ.  She can tell something is wrong with him, but all he says is that they had a rough day.  She tries to get more out of him, but he's not going to tell her what he saw.  James in the chow line throws his plate of food down on the floor.  The cooks really get angry at him, but Lt. Feeley puts an end to it when he says they have had a crap day. 

Lt. Feeley is dressed with only a towel around his lower half when her hears some noise at the door.  He grabs his weapon and goes to see who it might be.  It's the married neighbor woman Almira.  She says that Naser tells her that the worst is over, but she knows that's not true.  The lieutenant makes a big promise --  that they won't let anything happen to their neighbors. 

Lt. Feeley sits in the dark when Minak and Loughrey come walking into the building laughing and giggling.   

Naser comes home and asks his wife why is she sewing a dress for their daughter when there is not going to be a dance?  He tells her that she and the child are going to have to leave for someplace safe. Naser says he has friends in Hungary.  The daughter comes out and asks why are they arguing?  Naser says they're not arguing and that his daughter has to go back to bed.

In the morning Minka says hello to Lt. Feeley.  She goes to leave, but can't get out because the door is locked.  Lt. Feeley opens it for her and then locks it behind her.  When Loughrey comes down for breakfast, Feeley asks him what is he doing with the translator when his fiancÚ Emma is going to have his baby?  Loughrey tells Feeley that he's a hypocrite messing around with the married neighbor woman. 

Naser gets into his car with two automatic weapons.  Feeley passes by and sees Almira.  He goes over to her to tell her that they have been ordered back to camp.  She tells him that Naser wants her to leave the area.  When does she leave?  She is packing tomorrow.  Feeley tells her he will come by to say goodbye to her. 

At a briefing the unit is told that the Croats are moving to grab more land for themselves.  Therefore, the units are going to be patrolling the area around the clock.   The briefing officer says there should be no guilt for what happened at Ahmichi because they simply can't be everywhere. 

On patrol, the guys see the Croats blowing up a building and then shooting into it randomly.  There's nothing the UN people can do about it.  The guys decide to evacuate some Muslims before they are killed.  Loughrey gets a call, however, saying that their UN mandate does not allow the evacuation of people not all shot up.  Loughrey says he hopes they have a lot of body bags on hand.  Major Stone has to get on the line to tell Loughrey to stop being facetious and cancel the evacuation.  Loughrey is pretty frustrated to say the least.

Now Loughrey has to go around telling his men to get the women and children out of the personnel carriers.  The troops are upset at this order.  One of the soldiers suggests they evacuate them anyway.  He says what they're doing just can't be right.  The officers tell him to just follow the Colonel's orders. 

Loughrey gets balled out by the top brass.   A superior officer reminds Loughrey that in the case of fighting, the UN soldiers are neutral.  They don't get involved.  The higher officers don't seem to have much compassion for the terrible guilty feelings being endured by the men of the units carrying out the operations.  There should be psychiatrists there to help the top brass and everyone else in the British army to cope with both the terrible sights they have to see and their feelings of powerlessness and frustration at having to leave women and children behind to be killed by ethnic cleansers.  

Feeley tells Almira and her daughter to pack a back for two days.  He will be taking them to the camp.  At the camp Almira tells the lieutenant that Naser has gone to fight.  Feeley tells her he can get her a job on the base as an interpreter.   

At night, Almira's daughter says she wants to go back to their house to get her prom dress.  Almira is torn up inside over whether to go or to stay. 

The unit is sent out at night.  They see a huge building on fire.  Many of the Muslims now park themselves in the crawl space of another building.  James warns Feeley that Langrubber is on his way down here.  Feeley tells Engel to keep Langrubber busy.  Engel says it will be his pleasure.  Loughrey comes over to ask what is Feeley going to do?  Feeley says he is turning off all the radios and getting these people out of here.  Loughrey says he will help Feeley.  Under fire, the people get in the personnel carriers and the vehicles take off. 

Almira goes to the house with her daughter to get her prom dress and some other items. 

The soldiers in the unit start talking about their getting thrown out of the British army.  Someone says at least they did something good before they left.  He says he wouldn't give this job to a dog.

On the move Feeley sees Almira's house on fire.  He goes to check on the house and finds Almira and her daughter dead.  He kneels down next to Almira's body and touches her hair.  Loughrey hears the mention of two female bodies in a certain area and wonders if Almira and her daughter might be dead.  He goes to check it out.  He comes upon Feeley still kneeling by Almira's body.  While Loughrey and two others dig the graves for the dead, Feeley goes and gets a Muslim holy man to chant over the graves. 

Feeley goes into the house and packs up the belongings of the dead females.  He stares at a photograph of Almira.  Minka comes to the house and tells Feeley that she's sorry about what happened.  Feeley thanks her.

On the television there is talk of a possible treaty being signed between the enemies.  The British soldiers jeer at the negotiators.

Croats have come with almost 100 Muslim bodies to the UN camp.  The Croats say that there is one person alive among the 98 dead Muslims in the back of a truck.  James goes to see if he can find the one still alive. He has to walk on dead bodies to get to the one man still alive.  Loughrey comes with a stretcher to pick up the Muslim.  He thinks that the Muslim is Naser, Almira's husband. James goes over to the Croat commander and challenges him to fight him. 

Testifying before a lawyer charging Croatians with war crimes, a man from the unit says that the Croatian commander was so happy to get out of that challenge by getting a call from his superiors to let the UN have the dead bodies.  "He knew that James wasn't going to stop until they had provoked him, so they could kill him."  The female lawyer asks if James would have done that?  Yes.  The soldier adds that according to the UN mandate, James went too far.  "In my opinion, he [James] was a hero."   James even got in trouble for giving Naser morphine. 

The soldier tells the lawyer that the UN soldiers had to bury the dead Muslims in a mass grave.  The Croats were wailing and crying over just four bodies and cursing those terrible Muslims for what they had done.  The soldier testifies that the Muslim bodies were in pieces, including the bodies of the children. 

Feeley looks for Naser in the hospital.  He finds him.  Naser has lost the lower half of his left leg.  He thanks James for helping to give his wife and child a somewhat decent funeral.  Naser also says that he thought his wife had fallen out of love with him.  Feeley gives Naser some liquor and a photo of his wife.  Looking at the photo, Naser starts crying.   

The British unit is going home.  Loughrey hugs and kisses Minka goodbye.  In light snow, the armored personnel carriers move out. 

After six months of service in Bosnia, the guys are back in Liverpool, England.  James goes shopping with his mother.  He sees a mother and her little girl fighting and yelling at each other.  James goes over and asks the little girl what she is crying about?  What has she got to cry about?  He has seen children really hurt.  Children with missing limbs or their heads cut off.  He goes on talking like this until the mother tells him to leave or she will call someone.  At this point, mother arrives to take James away.  The woman tells James' mother that she should keep that man locked up.

Loughrey is in a trance eating up the lawn with a tiller, while very pregnant Emma yells to him to stop.  He's back in the war.  Emma grabs him and he swings his arm around and hits her, knocking her down.  She is taken in an ambulance to the hospital. 

Alan goes to the soccer game with his sister Bobby.  But he can't enjoy the game.  He remains seated when everyone else in the stands gets up and roars.  Men are yelling in anger at whatever displeases them.  James can't stand it any more and leaves.  His sister is very sympathetic to Alan and she takes him home.  She asks him if he is all right? He doesn't have to stay in her bedroom with all the soccer mementoes.   Alan says he likes it here.  She grabs her guitar and starts slowly playing "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess by the Gershwins. 

The dad of the girlfriend comes by and tells Alan that the fellows in Bosnia are all heroes.  Alan says he thinks it was all "shite".   This shocks the father.  Alan says they had to leave people behind to die. 

Waiting for a bus at a bus stop, Alan loses it, grabs a garbage can and knocks out the three windows of the bus stop.  He sits down and holds his head in his hands. 

The police question Loughrey about what happened to his fiancÚ.  The policeman says Loughrey dislocated her jaw.  He tells the officer that he did not beat up his fiancÚ.  He says he may have been acting a bit strange, but it's hard to get excited about a baby when he still sees the faces of the dead  --  of the people they had to leave behind. 

Loughrey goes in to see his fiancÚ and the baby.  Emma has a nasty black eye on the right side of her face.  Referring to the baby, the new mother tells Loughrey that he can pick the child up.  As he does so, he starts crying.  Then Emma starts crying. 

James finishes up his testimony with the war crimes lawyer.  Feeley is waiting to talk to the lawyer.  When he sees James, he asks if he can reschedule the interview?  Yes.  The guys go have some coffee together.  James tells the lieutenant that he used to dream of making the winning goals in soccer games, but now when he dreams, he dreams of walking on dead bodies. 

Feeley goes to visit Loughrey, but only Emma is home.  He asks about her black eye, but she just ignores the question.  Her fiancÚ kept a diary and she wants to know from Feeley who is this Minka person?  She says she was an interpreter to whom Loughrey got very close.  But Minka is now dead.  Her land rover hit a land mine.  She virtually screams at Feeley.  Emma says that Neil is an entirely different person.  "I don't know him anymore."  And that's why she read his diary. 

Loughrey asks Feeley who was Minka with?  Feely responds that she was probably with a Dutch officer.  Neil says he has no right to ask, really.  He says he didn't love her.  He does love Emma.  Loughrey then says:  "I feel guilty about coming back."  Feeley says he's being sent back to Ireland. 

Alan works on the farm.  A friend of his comes to visit him.  They catch up on the news about the men of their old unit.  His friend shocks Alan when he says he's going back to Bosnia to drive a truck for one of the aid agencies.  Alan says:  "Good for you."

With other officers, Feeley dodges a question about Bosnia saying that he can't remember.  He takes out a pistol and has to sign for it.  Feeley sees the faces of the dead, dying and suffering Muslims of Bosnia. He puts the pistol to his head.  A fellow soldier comes in just in the nick of time to see this and stops Feeley from killing himself.  The two men hug and Feeley cries, while the other man tells him it's all right. 

 

Spoiler Warning.  Good film.  Especially heartbreaking were the scenes where the British UN unit in Bosnia had to leave behind scores of Muslims to be killed by the Croatian ethnic cleansers.  And this was especially hard on the British troops having to abandon the people who desperately wanted to be saved by the British.  This adds an extra weight onto the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder that the UN soldiers develop0.  It adds a terrible feeling of personal guilt to the horrors the men have seen, especially the horrors of ethnic cleansing.  These men need psychiatric help, but they did not get any such help.  James was so badly effected, that he often walked around in somewhat of a daze.  When the men finally get back to England, they carry their PTSD home with them.  The effect of the war on the Brits is shown toward the end of the film.  One soldier tries to kill himself and, at least outwardly, he was the one who seemed least effected by PTSD.   There were several love stories in the film, but they don't have the happiest of endings.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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