''Hidden Agenda'' is one of those have-to-make films. Director Ken Loach apparently felt he had to do it.
Loach has done four television documentaries that were banned in England because of their ''controversial nature.'' He feels that ''Hidden Agenda'' is ''an important story that should be told.''
It is, but the fact that the story is so familiar works against it.
As ''sensitive documentaries'' go, this is a rather good one. It takes sides in the English/Irish ''Troubles'' but does so in very controlled fashion. It hopes to tell a story of injustice, and does so with calm and precision. Unfortunately, it will strike many viewers as ho-hum, one of those same-old-thing movies.
During World War II, the Germans and their Gestapo were the movie heavies. After World War II, it was the Russians and their KGB. In recent years, it has been the CIA and the FBI. In the new film, it is the British security forces. According to the film, the British, with their ''shoot-to-kill'' policy in Belfast, are no more humane than the Gestapo, the KGB the CIA or the FBI.
The British, like the Russians, Germans and the Americans, are all to willing to murder in order to achieve their goals in Northern Ireland, according to the new film.
You might say that ''Hidden Agenda'' is Costa-Gavras deja vu. Costa-Gavras directed ''Z,'' the prototype of the neo-controversial film. His latest film, ''The Music Box,'' was a departure from his earlier films.
No matter. Loach, at 54, picks up the banner and continues down the road Costa-Gavras traveled, and your appreciation of the film will depend on how many of these movies you have seen.
Frances McDormand, Brian Cox, Brad Dourif and Mai Zetterling are in the cast. McDormand and Dourif play married Americans, members of the International League for Civil Liberties, in Northern Ireland to investigate charges that the British Security Forces are shooting first and asking questions later.
The British agents are also accused of kidnapping and other vile crimes, and when Paul (Dourif) meets a man who promises him a tape that will provide definite evidence of these acts, the American and the Irishman are run off the road and shot dead.
British officials say the dead men were suspected terrorists. The dead American's wife, however, knows better. So does an investigator sent in by the British government. When he and the American woman attempt to expose the act for what it was, murder, they meet with resistance just about everywhere.
''Hidden Agenda'' is at local theaters.
** An American is murdered by British intelligence, and the dead man's wife hopes to expose the killers.
CAST: Frances McDormand, Brian Cox, Brad Dourif, Mai Zetterling
DIRECTOR: Ken Loach
RATING: R (violence)
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes