Danny Boy review – the tremendous Toby Jones deserves all the awardsMay 13, 2021
This excellent, eye-opening drama about the Iraq war probes the line between military violence and unlawful killing. Essential viewing
Good Lord, Toby Jones is tremendous, isn’t he? It’s absurd that he’s only got the one Bafta, when he should have all the Baftas, plus all the Emmys and the Oscars, too. The vivid humanity he brings to every role – as open-hearted Lance in Detectorists, as a semi-mystical football mascot in Marvellous, as a status-hungry banker in Capital – is always remarkable; in this one-off factual drama, it becomes essential. Danny Boy (BBC Two) carefully lights the way through a particularly opaque patch in the fog of war, illuminating the contemporary workings of the British military and government in the process.
Jones plays the human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, now routinely referred to as the “disgraced human rights lawyer Phil Shiner”. Yet during the period depicted in the opening of Danny Boy, he was still basking in the afterglow of his work on the case of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British Army custody in 2003. Our story’s hero, however – speaking narratively and militarily – is C/Sgt Brian Wood, played by Anthony Boyle. In 2004, Wood led a bayonet charge in the battle of Danny Boy, near the city of Amarah in southern Iraq, and was subsequently awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Just five years later, he was summoned to appear at the al-Sweady inquiry, set up at Shiner’s urging, and intended to investigate allegations of unlawful killing at the same battle.