Published on October 19th, 2014 | by Allan Brown0
Movie Review: ’71 (2014)
Running Time: 99 mins
Director: Yann Demange
Writer: Gregory Burke (screenplay)
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid, Paul Anderson, Sean Harris
Director Yann demange (Dead Set, Criminal Justice) breaks the confines of television, to deliver a bold and exciting, edge of your seat war drama, with enough smarts to make it stand out from the rest.
When young Private Hook (Jack OConnell) finds himself left behind by his unit on the hostile streets of Belfast in 1971, he must negotiate his way back to the safety to his barracks as local nationalist fighters hunt for him at every turn. However, when Private Hook accidentally witness’s an unsavoury plot being hatched, loyalties soon become increasingly murky on both sides of the divide.
Although set against the backdrop of the Northern Ireland conflict that raged between 1968 to 1998, Demange diverts from allowing the film to become a political statement. Instead, he chooses to show the fog of war through the eyes of a fresh faced solider. A solider, who like many, had little, to no understanding of why they were there. The choice to keep the war as a context for the storyline, as appose to the main threat of the narrative, is a key move. Not only does it allow the audience to connect with Jack O’Connells character very quickly, but also allows the film to keep its momentum throughout, never allowing the complex political issues of the civil war to outweigh the characters on-screen. Indeed, ‘71 is about the people on the ground, not the establishment.
Jack O’Connell owns the role in another outstanding, fearless performance, only strengthening his position in being one of the most fresh and exciting talents of his generation
The conflict is eloquently described to Private Hook in the second act as; “Rich C*NTS, telling thick C*NTS, Too shoot poor C*NTS”, and this – although blunt – pretty much sums it up perfectly.
The whole ensemble involved here are at the top of their game. From Chris Oddy’s production design that captures the tone and look of the 1970s beautifully, to Chris Wyatt astute editing that insures the films pace and intensity never lets up. However, it is in Tat Radcliffe’s stunning cinematography that the film really excels, showcasing the overwhelming decay of urban life in these troubled times with such realism and poetic beauty.
As for the casting, not in recent memory have I witnessed such a strong collaboration on screen. No weak links here. Jack O’Connell owns the role in another outstanding, fearless performance, only strengthening his position in being one of the most fresh and exciting talents of his generation. Heavyweights, Sean Harris and Paul Anderson deliver intense and ominous performances that we have come to expect from such fine actors. However it is newcomers Corey Mckinley and Barry Keoghan that really surprise, often stealing scenes altogether.
It could be argued that the sub-plots do occasionally run the risk of slowing the pace of the main narrative, but as these sub-plots begin to tie in with the main thread, momentum increases until the film explosive finale.
Summary: ’71 is an intense thrill ride from start to finish, and due to Demange’s exceptional grasp in direction, Jack O’Connell’s fearless performance, and Tat Radcliffe’s astute cinematography, the film is not only a roaring success, but a powerful, exciting and thought provoking addition to British cinema.