The Mark Of Cain (3 stars)

Channel 4, Thu 5 Apr, 9pm


As the full weight of the war in Iraq continues to bear down on us, the related dramas and documentaries will just keep on coming. After Peter Kosminky’s The Government Inspector and Michael Winterbottom’s Road to Gauntanamo, here comes another of our right-thinking screen scribes with Tony Marchant laying into the subject. The Mark of Cain has all the standard Marchant qualities (anger, injustice, barbarism, official collusion) and hits most of its targets with an agonised certitude that will have you nodding in regretful agreement.

Focusing on a group of British squaddies based in Basra, we see the anxieties and traumas the more sensitive ones go through when defending themselves against insurgent attacks and keeping the group together by collaborating with ritual atrocities upon Iraqi subjects. While the film opens with a subtitled declaration that ‘extensive research’ has been conducted to make this film, it insists that The Mark of Cain is fundamentally a fictionalised account of warfare. Yet, the impact of the gruesome and anarchic torture scenes is dulled by the fact that all this seems just too familiar from the photos which leaked out of Abu Ghraib. If anything, this is a televisual representation of the mocked-up Mirror images which got Piers Morgan the sack; we are well aware what is in front of us is fake, but it’s still perfectly within the realms of possibility. Whatever the shape of future ‘Iraq’ dramas, their strength will come from being a little more than tacit confirmation.

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