Political thriller Red Mercury begins as police officers close in on a three-man Islamic terror cell targeting London. After a tip off, the trio flee their flat, bomb-making equipment in hand, but their getaway vehicle has been clamped, and cornered, they take refuge in a Greek restaurant taking its clientele and staff hostage. Soon a sophisticated police/MI5 operation led by the Special Branch Gold Commander (Postlethwaite) and negotiator Sofia Warburton, (Stevenson) is underway to release the hostages.
Warburton begins to create a profile of the hostage takers. Shahid is from a single-parent family, grew up on a council estate, and was a delinquent until he found religion. Asif was brought up by his dominant widower father and got a double first in Natural Sciences at Cambridge. Mushtaq, the natural leader of the three, has a PhD in physics. Warburton also discovers that the terrorists are in possession of red mercury, a substance that can be used to make a ‘dirty bomb’ with the potential of unleashing inestimable injuries and horror.
Unlike many Hollywood films that have dealt with the theme of terrorism in recent years, director Roy Battersby and writer Farrukh Dhondy have to tried to present a measured and educated examination of Islamic militants. For this reason much of the film is focused on conversations between the hostages and their captors. It is perhaps because of this that the script attracted such an impressive cast.
Filming was of course completed well before this summer’s London atrocities, and for some it may be inappropriate to screen a film that attempts to humanise the motivations of British-born terrorists. However, this is a gallant attempt to show that behind the blank face of terror is a frightened, confused and misled youth. ED