Danny Boy...the fine line of war and ‘killing’

Wednesday: Danny Boy; (BBC Two, 9pm)

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 5:00 pm
Margaret Wood, Brian Wood, Lucy Wood and Gavin Wood
Margaret Wood, Brian Wood, Lucy Wood and Gavin Wood

Having Toby Jones’ name attached to a project is a mark of quality. He’s one of the finest actors around, a man in demand with numerous award wins and nominations under his belt.

In 2014, he narrowly missed out on a Bafta for his amazing performance in Marvellous, acclaimed writer Peter Bowker’s look at the life of Stoke City’s most famous and extraordinary fan, Neil Baldwin. It was originally broadcast on BBC Two, and now Jones is back on the channel with another feature-length drama based on a true story.

Jones plays human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who claimed that British soldier Brian Wood and members of his regiment had committed war crimes while stationed in Iraq in 2004. At the time, Wood had received the Military Cross for his gallantry in leading the first bayonet charge in 25 years during the Battle of Danny Boy.

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Anthony Boyle stars opposite Jones as Wood, whose life was thrown into turmoil by the allegations; he was subsequently at the centre of a five-year nightmare as he became caught up in the Al-Sweady Inquiry, which is among the largest public inquiries ever undertaken in the UK, costing almost £25million.

Members of the production team have a track record in bringing true-life projects to the screen; Colin Barr and Susan Horth worked on Our War and Damilola: Our Loved Boy, while Lucy Richer and Clare Sillery were involved in recent Bafta nominee Small Axe and Once Upon a Time in Iraq respectively.

“Here’s a man who won a medal for valour, but whose toughest test was the scrutiny that followed,” says screenwriter Robert Jones. “External scrutiny, and soul searching too – Brian Wood’s story is a fascinating one for a writer to explore. It’s been a great privilege to work with producers of such distinction and I’m really delighted we’re going into production with Sam Miller at the helm and a terrific cast and crew.”

“Robert has written an extraordinarily compelling, intelligent and nuanced script, and it’s a real honour to be working with Danny Boy’s exceptional cast and creative team to bring it to the screen,” adds Toby Jones.

Director Miller describes the production as “a candid and subtle delve into a troubled sequence in recent history that sets up an undertow threatening all those involved. The intimate questions raised about the nature of soldiering and the political ramifications are never more prescient.”

Danny Boy may be Wood’s story, and to a certain extent Shiner’s, but it also investigates the fine line between war and unlawful killing while also examining the impact the case had on Wood’s family and his relationship with them. How it all panned out can be discovered via a quick internet search, but it’s far more impressive to see it played out on screen.

Thought-provoking and compelling, Danny Boy will live long in the memory. Boyle perhaps sums it up best when he says: “We get to explore not just the realities of war, but how they can come back to haunt you.”

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