'71

"Excellent"

'71 Review


Both an intensely personal odyssey and an exploration of the impact of conflict on communities, this sharply involving thriller marks an auspicious debut for director Yann Demange. It also features yet another striking lead performance for Jack O'Connell, who also received high praise for Starred Up earlier this year and has Angelina Jolie's Unbroken still to come. This film puts him through his paces as his character is sent on a relentless journey right into the heart of one of the most complex conflicts on earth.

The title tells us when this is taking place: it's the early days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, as young Private Hook (O'Connell) is assigned to Belfast, where clashes between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists have turned the city into a war zone. While on a mission to diffuse a street riot, things spiral out of control and Hook is separated from his unit. Running for his life, he works his way across the city pursued by a tenacious thug (Killian Scott). He also meets a local leader (David Wilmot) and a couple (Richard Dormer and Charlie Murply) who help him survive. Meanwhile, Hook's senior officer (Sam Reid) works with a pair of British spies (Sean Harris and Paul Anderson) to track him down.

The film unfolds as a series of life-or-death encounters that can go either way, and each adds to the bigger picture of how the Troubles have torn Ireland apart. But the script intriguingly avoids politics to make a deeper comment on humanity, making it clear that this kind of situation certainly isn't unique to this time and place. Demange stages each sequence with bravura touches, using long-takes and intense filmmaking to put us right in the middle of the action. And O'Connell's sensitive, expressive performance makes it very easy to identify with Hook as he's thrown into a situation where everyone has guns and bombs but no experience at battle. This approach is so human that it's deeply unsettling; death is always a possibility, random and sudden.

The excellent supporting cast gets far beneath the surface of their blunt characters, finding all sorts of unexpected shadings along the way. In other words, the film never takes a simplistic approach to this conflict (or any other), honestly exploring the political, religious and ethnic issues that swirl together to create each flashpoint. Most importantly, screenwriter Burke isn't trying to explain the nature of a conflict that has its roots in 400 years of history and 40 years of "troubles". He's looking at how violence deeply affects both society and individuals anywhere on earth. And that's something that resonates very deeply.



'71

Facts and Figures

Genre: Thriller

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th October 2014

Distributed by: Roadside Attractions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Yann Demange

Producer: Robin Gutch,

Starring: as Gary, as MRF NCO Lewis, as Captain Sandy Browning, as Lt. Armitage, as C.O., as Brigid, Valene Kane as Orla (Spitting Woman)

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