’71 (2014) Directed by Yann Demange. With Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid and Sean Harris.
71′ tells the story of Gary Hook, a young British soldier who finds himself abandoned on the hostile streets of Belfast during a time of intense sectarian conflict in 1971. Directed by Yann Demange and starring Jack O’Connell, the film is not only an effective thriller, it is also a stark portrait of a frightening time in the recent history of Northern Ireland.
After his fearsome performance in the prison drama Starred Up and now this, Jack O’Connell has quickly established himself as one of Britain’s most exciting young actors. In ’71, his performance once again feels honest and undiluted, showing measures of toughness and vulnerability as he fights for survival across a deadly suburban landscape, hunted by members of the IRA.
The film pulls no punches in its frank depictions of violence and suffering, with cinematography by Tat Radcliffe helping to emphasise a gritty, nightmarish world where order ceases to exist and the people live in a state of repression and fear. There is balance in the representation of the Catholics and Protestants, with innocents and good Samaritans on both sides. It is the moments Gary shares with these characters that ’71 finds its heartbeat, fleetingly helping restore our faith in humanity amid a mire of hate.
Given the real-world conflict the film sets itself within, the events are charged above that of your average action-thriller. The sense of distrust between people is heightened by depictions of corruption and betrayal within the British Army – demonstrating that in any conflict, there are degrees of wrongdoing on both sides.
With some heart-pounding moments of suspense and a threatening atmosphere throughout, ‘71 is an impressive piece of work that captures the chaos and unrest of the period, while remaining resolute in its core ambition as an uncompromising action-thriller. 4/5