Wednesday, 18 February 2015

'71 (2014)

Okay, now is not the time for a history lesson. Neither is it the place. But to be fully aware of the tension running through '71 you have to at least be slightly aware of the situation that tore apart Northern Ireland, and sometimes spilled over into areas of the UK, known colloquially as The Troubles. It was a war over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, with the Unionists (who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK) on one side and the Republicans (who wanted to break away and form one united country of Ireland) on the other. A heavy military presence, with most soldiers transferred over from the UK mainland, was required, which didn't go down well with those living in the region. Religious views also helped to keep the battle raging, and that's about all I'll say just now. Please take this paragraph as nothing more than an attempt at a VERY brief overview of a complicated situation that scarred Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom for decades. There's plenty of material out there, by much smarter people, for those who want to read up further on it.

'71 stars Jack O'Connell as Gary Hook, a young British soldier who finds himself isolated from his unit on the streets of Belfast. It's 1971, hence the title, and he is in serious danger. The republicans will kill him if they find him, and there's even a chance that some of the undercover personnel on his side will turn hostile if they think that he could undo all of their hard work. It's going to be a long night for the young lad. IF he's lucky enough to survive it.

Director Yann Demange has been doing some great work on TV over the years (including being at the helm of the superb Dead Set) and he makes the transition to the big screen with no small amount of confidence and skill. It helps that the script, by Gregory Burke, is as good as it is. Although it mixes moments of immediate danger with moments showing characters grappling with choices that they must make, the tension remains high for every minute that keeps our main character in such dangerous territory.

O'Connell has been a rising star for a good few years now and this is yet another fantastic performance from him, with the movie making the most of his youthful looks to underline just how out of his depth he is. He carries most of the movie, despite not always being the focus of every scene, but he's helped by some other great actors. Sean Harris lends his usual intensity to proceedings, Paul Anderson and Sam Reid do decent work, and Corey McKinley makes a strong impression, portraying a boy who is shown to be much more than just your average young lad.

'71 is a film that requires patience and concentration, but it rewards viewers with a movie experience that mixes visceral thrills with intelligence and a roster of well-sketched characters. In other words, it's highly recommended.


This is the disc available just now, from right here in the UK -

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The UK version can be bought here -

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