Reg Keys is a name I hadn’t heard before, but I was fully aware that we were taken to war in Iraq on a lie.
Portrayed by Tim Roth, his son, Tom (Zac Fox), was one of six young men killed in action, Tom having died just four days before his 21st birthday and, as we now know, Saddam Hussein’s speculated WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) were never found, so a lot of soldiers died for nothing while they were out there.
There were some heartfelt scenes in this, such as Reg opening up the coffin to inspect his son’s body and counting far more bullet holes than the single one he told his wife, Sally (Anna Maxwell Martin) about; the revelation that broke in the press about how each soldier, including Tom, were only given a shameful amount of just 50 rounds of ammo while out in Iraq, so overall, they were sent out into battle without any decent ammo, nor any morphine, nor even a satellite phone – they just had a clansman radio which is bolted to the vehicle, so once away from that, they have zero means of communication; and finally, on the night of the election, only the Top 3 got to speak in the Sedgefield election results. We know Tony Blair won again, but Reg Keys came fourth. However, through gritted teeth, the returning officer (Kevin Doyle) let him go up to have his say, and Tim Roth was cleverly in with election footage on the night as all the candidates stand on the platform, including Blair, so they’d superimposed him over the real Reg Keys (perhaps they should’ve shown the original speech? That must be online somewhere)
In addition, with the Chilcot report finally coming out soon, the timing of this was spot-on. However, while this was an important topic, this drama fell flat. We’ve had the details about the Iraq war told so many times that the revelations weren’t revelations. Tim Roth, as Reg, tries to look conflicted as he wrestles with pulling out of the campaign to look after Sally, as her health deteriorates, but often he just looks a bit fed up. We didn’t sense any of the man’s passion for anything.
Sally, sadly, passed away in 2011.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen this sort of drama so many times before, but it felt perfunctory, especially with actors playing the likes of former BBC War correspondent-turned-MP Martin Bell and novelist Frederick Forsyth campaigning on his behalf, which felt crowbarred into the script.
It’s not the first time a key topic has been turned into a poor drama. Last year’s A Song For Jenny suffered the same fate for all the reasons I mentioned in that review.
I just hope that the Chilcot Report finally gives us the answers we’ve been waiting for. Tony Blair took us to war on a lie, a huge amount of Iraq was blown up for something that wasn’t there, and he’s now Middle East Peace Envoy. If it wasn’t true, you couldn’t make it up. And now he is worth £60m.
Blair’s winning parade in 1997’s election went off to the tune of D:Ream’s Things can only get better. They certainly did for him!
Reg is available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on June 13th. If you missed it, it’s available to watch on the BBC iPlayer until July 6th. Also, click on the packshot for the full-size version.
Director: David Blair
Producers: Colin McKeown and Donna Molloy
Writers: Jimmy McGovern and Robert Pugh
Reg Keys: Tim Roth
Sally Keys: Anna Maxwell Martin
Richard Keys: Elliott Tittensor
Bob Clay: Ralph Brown
Nan: Sandra Voe
Major Potter: Chris Brailsford
Officer: Michael Cahill
First Soldier: Frankie Wilson
Brize Norton Officer: Myles Keogh
Tom Keys: Zac Fox
Major Bryn Parry Jones: Charlie Anson
Lance Corporal Joanne Richardson: Kate Bracken
Corporal John Fraser: Mikey Collins
Blair’s Minder: David Westhead
Ambulanceman: Danny Lawrence
Felicity Arbuthnot: Jan Goodman
Martin Bell: David Yelland
Fredrick Forsyth: Timothy Bentinck
Man 1: Alan Renwick
Man 2: Paul Copley
First Voter: Robert Horwell
Second Voter: Ian Puleston-Davies
Third Voter: Moey Hassan
Al Lockwood: Andrew Readman
Interviewer: Vivien Creegor
Male Voter: Dale Meeks
Woman: Joan Kempson
Teller: Steve Garti
Returning Officer: Kevin Doyle
Woman Voter: Margaret Jackson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.