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'71 (2014)
  • Director:
    Yann Demange
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Gregory Burke
  • Cast:
    Jack O'Connell,Sam Reid,Sean Harris
  • Time:
    1h 39min
  • Year:
A young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a terrifying riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorienting, alien and deadly landscape.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack O'Connell Jack O'Connell - Gary Hook
Jack Lowden Jack Lowden - Thommo
Paul Popplewell Paul Popplewell - Training Corporal
Adam Nagaitis Adam Nagaitis - Jimmy
Joshua Hill Joshua Hill - Carl
Ben Williams-Lee Ben Williams-Lee - Recruit Soldier
Jonah Russell Jonah Russell - Barracks Officer
Harry Verity Harry Verity - Darren
Peter McNeil O'Connor Peter McNeil O'Connor - Warden
Babou Ceesay Babou Ceesay - Corporal
Sam Reid Sam Reid - Lt. Armitage
James McArdle James McArdle - Sergeant
Sam Hazeldine Sam Hazeldine - C.O.
Sean Harris Sean Harris - Captain Sandy Browning
Paul Anderson Paul Anderson - Sergeant Leslie Lewis

'71 (2014)

Most scenes were shot in Northern England.

Gary Hook was originally intended to be from Lancashire. At Jack O'Connell's request, the script was rewritten so the character came from his birthplace of Derby, Derbyshire.

First theatrical film directed by Yann Demange.

The film's composer, David Holmes, was born in Belfast, where most of the film takes place.

Jack O'Connell's character says a total of 342 words.

In 1971 I was living on the fringes of Derry's Bogside. On several occasions my home was 'collateral damage' in a number of bombings and I remember lying on the floor of my bedroom in case I might fall victim to a stray bullet from one of the gun-battles raging outside. I drank in pubs that would be bombed in time and I was on the march on Bloody Sunday. Things were bad in Derry in 1971 but they were a lot worse in Belfast which is where and when Yann Demange's terrific movie "'71" is set. Maybe it's because I had first-hand experience but I've never really taken to films about 'the Troubles'. Irish film-makers have usually shied away from the subject, (a rare good exception being Jim Sheridan's "In the Name of the Father" and that was set mostly in England), leaving it up to the English and the Americans to tackle them, mostly ineptly, (exceptions again being Alan Clarke's made-for-television film "Elephant" and Steve McQueen's "Hunger"), so my expectations of "'71" were far from high, yet I believe this will be the film about the Northern Ireland 'Troubles' by which all others will be judged. Firstly nothing happens on screen that seems far-fetched or exaggerated, (and here is a film that doesn't pull its punches in showing the collusion between the British Government and paramilitaries on both sides). It's a film that could never have been made in the seventies and even 20 years ago it would have been banned here in Northern Ireland. Politically, it's dynamite but it's as a nail-biting, nerve-shredding thriller that it really makes its mark. In may respects it's a very minimalist work, taking place almost entirely over the course of one night and is really made up of two lengthy set-pieces. It's about Private Hook, (a superb Jack O'Connell), a young British solider who, on his first day of active service in Belfast, is separated from his platoon and forced to go on the run in a totally alien landscape where he is seen as 'the enemy' to be hunted down and killed. We've seen this story before. In "Odd Man Out" James Mason was the IRA man on the run in an equally treacherous Belfast but as they say, it's a tale as old as time. Outstanding American examples have included "Deliverance" and "Southern Comfort", albeit in very different settings, but few have packed the punch of "'71"; this is a terrifyingly tense thriller.

It's also the feature debut of Yann Demange who handles the material with all the assurance of a Paul Greengrass. He shoots it as if it were a newsreel, using mostly a hand-held camera, (the DoP is Tat Radcliffe), putting the audience in the centre of things. For once, all the performances are superb. In the past actors playing either Ulstermen or the occupying forces have often been reduced to nothing more than mouth-pieces; not here. Everyone on screen is utterly believable. This is one of the finest films you will see all year.
Set against the complex backdrop of the beginnings of Northern Ireland in 71 but before Bloody Sunday really turned the tide in the favour of the IRA in 72 this is an extremely well made taught piece of drama. With an assured performance by rising star Jack O'Connell in the lead, he plays a young soldier Gary Hook recently deployed to Northern Ireland who finds himself out of his dept when going on his first patrol thanks to the incompetence of his CO (Sam Reid) - Separated from his unit and lost in a city he doesn't know he's forced in a fight for survival as its hard to tell who is friend and who is foe in this extremely well written piece of drama. The writer here has taken care not to paint one side entirely good or bad and that is how it was. Wounded and armed with nothing but a knife Hook has enemies closing in from all sides as the film draws to a bloody climax.

I don't want to be accused of gushing praise, but there is much to compliment the whole team involved here, from the tones of the production design, beautifully capturing the mood feel and look of the 1970's in drab pastels and the grey of urban decay. The editing, directing, lighting is all bang on the money but greatest of all is the casting, for it is not only O'Connell who shines here, but the younger members of the cast almost upstage him with their brilliant performances. Two stand outs of the younger cast were Corey McKinley (Listed rather almost like an extra on here as 'Loyalist Child which seems a little unfair) and Barry Keoghan - The former is clearly a star in the making with his ballsy performance while Keoghan with almost no lines makes an amazing impact with simple looks conveying the struggles of emotion he feels inside when it comes to committing to a path of violence. Veterans Sean Harris brings his creepy presence to the duplicitous under cover unit commander but it is an energetic performance by O'Connell that brings it all together. Let us hope we do not loose him to Hollywood entirely. The film also takes time to give Hooks character some context, so we have some idea of his own life and attachments back home. A man almost without a family but not without people who are depending on him, this is a true depicting for many whom join the army, an alternative to spending life on the dole.

This film is living proof that we can make thrilling and exciting cinema in the UK but still leave some room for Social Commentary within the context of a great story - an excellent thriller which hints at the dark path that was to follow in Northern Ireland for many years. Strongly recommended.
I will be honest and say that I generally am touchy about films using the sectarian terrorist organizations, the troubles, or other aspects of Northern Irish politics as a base for thrillers or films – mainly because when they do, they do so in a rather heavy-handed and thoughtless way such as The Devil's Own, The Jackal, or many other such films. So with '71 there is a certain odd feeling that uses the streets of Belfast in the early 1970's as a launching point for a thriller involving British soldiers, terrorists on both sides of the divide, the RUC, and civilians of the time. This is not only an odd feeling that I had, but it is also one that the film itself seems to be all too aware of.

To talk generally the film does provide some good tension, with its fast pace, shifting ground, and hand-held camera-work; when it is doing this it is fine – not perfect, but fine. The sense of being trapped between all sides is apparent, and with the stakes high it does move well with what it does. The need to have all the players be clear and be positioned does rather reduce the pace a bit, but what does limit the film a bit is, ultimately, the politics of it. So, for some of this it is not the film that does this but rather the viewer – I guess particularly if you are familiar with the Troubles then it is hard to detach your personal opinions from the drama, which can make some of it harder to get into. The bigger thing though is that the film itself is conscious of this being a real situation, and as such it does know it carries a certain weight with it compared to if it had created this story in a fictional situation.

The cast carry this weight too, although mostly they do play out their characters as a more straightforward thriller – which helps the film be just that. O'Connell, Harris, Dormer, and others all play solid roles in the thriller side, even if the weight of the politics stop them just being genre devices, or being too details as real people. The pacing and structure of the film is good, and mostly it does manage to present the city streets of the Belfast roadblocks and no-go areas as oppressive and ensnaring if you are on the wrong side of them.

So as a thriller it mostly does work well thanks to the shifting narrative, and pace of delivery, however it is a film that senses the weight of the real story that it is using for the purposes of the thriller, and this knowledge does make a difference across the delivery.
New recruit Gary Hook finds his battalion shipped to Northern Ireland in the Autumn of 1971 . Bidding farewell to his brother who is in care Gary promises him he'll stay safe . However on his first call out in Belfast he finds himself trapped in a republican ghetto . As events unfold he comes across an undercover Military Reaction Force ( MRF ) and they decide Gary might have seen too much for him to be allowed to live

Sorry if I've perhaps given away too much in that plot summary but there is something a little bit misleading about the marketing campaign of this movie . Watching the trailer I instantly had this nailed as a reworking of Anabasis by Greek writer Xenophon from a couple of thousand years ago and which Walter Hill made a career out of reworking via films like THE WARRIORS . For a segment there is an aspect of this to '71 but that's not the whole story and is effectively a conspiracy thriller rather than a straightforward one about a man trapped behind enemy lines

This is a pity because the thriller elements work superbly and my fingernails were much shorter after I left the cinema than they were when I went in . There was also a scene that literally caused me to jump out of my seat and you'll know the scene I'm talking about when you see this movie . You can see why critics and many of the comments on this page are raving about this movie . It's a low budget thriller made by a first time director Yann Demange and yet has great commercial appeal and to coin cinematic cliché had this audience member held in a vice like grip

Where the film doesn't work so well is the conspiracy line in " conspiracy thriller " . Gary you see might have seen something so the MRF unit led by Captain Browning have to get rid of him . Browning it seems has his fingers in every paramilitary pie in Belfast and uses his connections in the republican heartland to find and eliminate Gary . This is the film's major failing - we just have to accept Browning's collusion with all sides and yet there's no logic and motivation for having him to do this . Some people might say it's not beyond the realms of impossibility for military intelligence to have done this in real life but the problem with documenting the Troubles is that rumour , hearsay and myth quickly becomes if not accepted fact then a repeated meme that will never go away . There's also another fault to the plotting where Gary escapes the nationalist Falls Road , finds himself in the loyalist Shankill and because of a plot twist finds himself back in the Falls Road again . In reality there's only a distance of half a mile between the two locations but it's highly unlikely in the era it's set Gary wouldn't have bumped in to an Army or RUC patrol . The implausibility is compounded that the film draws attention to the fact that entrances to these tribal enclaves are guarded by paramilitaries

This is a pity because everything else about the film works brilliantly . It has a great sense of time and place and it's only going on to Wikipedia that I found out the notorious Divis flats area no longer exists . I was willing to bet my life that the pivotal heart stopping scene towards the end was shot there on location . The cast are uniformly superb especially the prolific and constantly overlooked Sean Harris as Browning . It also makes a point now long forgotten that the Official and Provisional wings of the IRA were far from allies . That said bare in mind this is still a fictional work and not a documentary

In summary this might well be the very best film to feature The Troubles , a subject that has never lent itself to satisfying cinema . It's underlying problem is that it tries to be a little bit too complex and bring in a major subplot about the murky world of army spooks when in fact the story might have actually worked better by keeping faith in the premise of a British soldier lost in West Belfast in 1971 and it's this that stops the film becoming something of an instant classic it's being heralded as from some quarters . Nevertheless I give it 8/10
Tracking a young British soldier who fights for his life after being stranded by his unit on the vicious streets of Belfast, this 1971-set thriller is as grubby, tense and frenetic as the Northern Ireland conflict itself. Debutant Yann Demange does a sterling job in the director's chair, bringing a Paul Greengrass-esque urgency to the action with a combination of regular close-up shots and (not-too-shaky) hand-held camera work. Demange wisely opts for a quality over quantity approach to the brutal violence too, resulting in a few impactful events of savagery and gore that enhance the tension and dread rather than exploit it. Occurring over one night only, Demange – working from Gregory Burke's sparing, taut script – wrings suspense from moments as small as an uncomfortable conversation in a bar, and as big as a cat-and-mouse set piece in an apartment complex or the dazed aftermath of an explosion. It's not all smooth sailing though. The relatively unexplained bookending scenes are a tad cheesy and add little, whilst the bulk of the supporting characters are rarely more than stereotypes, albeit played with gusto. But this movie unmistakably belongs to lead actor, and recent BAFTA Rising Star winner, Jack O'Connell. His Private Gary Hook is resilient yet fragile, strong-willed yet frightened, making him a relatable everyman who will do anything to stay alive. It's not a film you could call "fun", but it's a riveting watch that rewards those willing to be immersed in its gritty and uncompromising survival story.
Introduced by a hard-hitting boxing fight; the ethos of '71 is immediately understood. It is brutal, thrilling and an utterly dramatic directorial debut from Yann Demange.

Part of a new regiment, Jack O'Connell's lead character, Gary Hook, is deployed to Belfast, Northern Ireland to help control an emergency situation caused by IRA terrorism. Gaining an essence of Full Metal Jacket meeting I am Solider – the film is quite honest in what it wants to be, and the narrative because of it flows consistently in the right direction.

Sent into the front-line urban warfare, Hook's regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Armitage (Sam Reid) is quickly bombarded with urine and pooh packages. Then quickly followed by one of the most realistic, violent and dramatic riots that has ever appeared in film.

Soon, Hook is separated from his group and forced to survive as a lone-wolf in the devilish-toned IRA hostile territory. All quickly intensifies to an incredible Bourne-style chase through the streets of terror; what with the cars alight at each corner, crisp cinematography - everything feels authentic.

'They do not care about you, to them, you are just a piece of meat' – one character announces to Hook. But how wrong they are, as '71 soon turns into a game of cat vs. cat vs. mouse in a hunt of find him first.

Led by Jack O'Connell (Starred Up), his performance is uncanny – but just one of the many highlights that '71 serves up. Co-starring alongside, Sean Harris and Paul Anderson play undercover superiors, yet are as corrupt as Bad Lieutenant.

Regimented like the army, '71 is on point. Everything is there for a reason, and it shows on screen. Struck with luck, but unlucky to have been there in the first place, Jack O'Connell prospers and carries the film even when it is unneeded and secures it as one of this year's best thrillers.
What a roller coaster of a film from beginning to end - Jack O Connell is brilliant and the supporting cast are thoroughly believable and the acting top class- my favourite star for the future Corey McKinley who plays the loyalist boy; he highlights the difference between Catholic and Loyalist which make the film a history lesson as well as a movie- its an advert for the British Film Industry - when making a film about the troubles to capture the mood of the time and to bring that to the screen depicting the different factions and hatred that came with it is difficult but whoever researched the period, got the costume and feel of the City of Belfast spot on created a Gem. The riot scene felt as if you were there in the thick of it, the building tension between the thin barricade of soldiers and the baying mob. This film is worthy of awards and I hope it gets lots as it will encourage others to make similar movies. Go and see it, ignore some of the inane comments on here that this isn't true- believe me having been on the receiving end of a riot at the Divis flats mid 1980's I can tell you it was like reliving the moment. The film captures the distorted angry faces the looks of shock and fear- very well made film indeed
'War is hell', many films have made such a statement about the nature of war, and thankfully '71 is decidedly in the 'War is hell' camp. What '71 adds is how disorienting and confusing war can be. Set in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1971, the film portrays the brutality of guerrilla warfare through the eyes of a single soldier; Gary Cook (played by Jack O'Connell).

We are introduced to Cook as a British recruit whose training is cut short due to the immediate need for more men on the battle lines. Shortly after his regiment is sent out on a mission to 'reassure the people', a riot breaks out and Cook finds himself cut off from his group and behind enemy lines. Worse yet, a particularly blood-thirsty faction of the IRA are on his tail. Cook is terrified and alone and O'Connell portrays this brilliantly in an almost wordless performance.

'71 never spells anything out to the audience, and the result is baffling and effective. In the film there are essentially three groups; The British faction that Cook was once a part of, the IRA faction attempting to catch Cook, and finally Cook and the people who help him. However, the lines between the three groups are not as defined as they might appear. The British faction that is attempting the rescue mission has to rely on Irish inside men, some of whom may be part of the IRA group attempting to capture Cook. It is also unclear whose side the men who help Cook are on, are they simply being generous or is their intent more malicious? For the most part, the audience shares his confusion, as many of the character's true allegiances are left unanswered for the majority of the film.

The debut feature from TV veteran Yann Demange, '71 is a showcase of great things to come. A tight thriller with an almost minimalist aesthetic, the film works breathlessly, and during the action set pieces, the film soars. The action is shot often down long narrow corridors using hand held cameras while the throbbing soundtrack adds to the tension, a stylistic cross between Paul Greengrass and John Carpenter.

The only stumble of the film is undoubtedly its climax, a single fault in an otherwise flawless screenplay by Gregory Burke. It is the one moment the film feels forced, the result a reminder that what we are watching is a movie. It's a shame because, until that moment, the characters decisions have felt so natural and organic. However, this is a small quibble, and one that will likely be forgiven by those caught up in the action.

'71 is a highly engrossing and entertaining film and Jack O'Connell gives a performance not to be missed. It is unfortunate that there hasn't been any attempt made to advertise the film, which is surely to account for its currently disappointing run in theatres. My girlfriend and I saw it opening weekend and were the only people in the theatre, hopefully it will have more success on DVD and Blue ray.
Billy Granson
Billy Granson
Hats off to Jack O'Connell for his portrayal of 'lost' soldier Gary Hook. Given that most of what he had to do was in silence, his character came across as fully fleshed out and recognisable as a human trapped in a dire situation far from his own making and far from being the result of his choices.

The movie, on the other hand, is not so clear cut and understandable.

As someone who grew up on the streets the film purports to portray (no, it was never like that) I may claim some limited authority here with regard to what the film claims to represent. And what it represents is a very stylised and considerably manufactured view of what 'the Troubles' were like. Back when I was a kid, I frequently heard the sounds of bombs exploding; more frequently the crack of rifle bullets and assorted small arms being discharged as well as (what I always thought the be the worst of all) the results of indiscriminate beatings and maimings carried out by those on the same side of the divide. It was my people who invented 'kneecapping' and we got pretty damned good at it too. Pity it was usually against our own.

However, what this film fails to show (because, if it did, there would be no story) is that Belfast was a city under total surveillance by the Army and/or the RUC, 24/7/365. Every few hundred metres there was a checkpoint of some kind or another. If a person needed assistance, raising a hand would do it. There was no running through badly lit back streets, no hiding out in abandoned terraced houses, no wandering empty streets in the dead of night (Man! Belfast was, is and always will be one of the most bustling cities you'll find anywhere in the world. People are out on the streets both day and night - even during the very height of the Troubles.) Oh, and we also had public telephones on the street corners.

What I'm saying is, this film really needed to have done more research. As others have said, it did not need to be set in Belfast in 1971. The themes in this movie could just as easily have been represented as 'Die Hard 912', 'The Equalizer 48' or 'John Wick - This Time You Killed my Cat' set in a hospital, an airport, or the streets of Boston. The shoot outs at the end of the film prove that. It may as well have been the OK Corrall. That's a pity because there is an important story to be told about life in Northern Ireland during the Troubles but this is not it. For now, the great work on this period in history remains Alan Clarke/Danny Boyle's 1989 triumph 'Elephant'. Watch that if you really want to know something about NI during the 1970's, not '71'.
I saw this film at the Berlinale film festival 2014, where it was part of the official competition. A lot of action plus a lot of yelling and F-words, but that is to be expected given the circumstances. A welcome surprise was that the plot was not confined to a lone soldier lost in a strange and hostile city (as suggested by the synopsis), but luckily went a few steps further by bringing up the topic of good versus bad and who to trust if someone is offering to help. You never knew which side someone is on, and whether there is no hidden agenda, in spite of showing interest in your well being and offering to help you out of a situation you can impossibly cope with on your own devices.

An important additional plot element was that the solider saw something that could have exposed a double agent. From that moment on he was endangered by several parties, some of them prepared to eliminate him in order to prevent exposure of their secrets. That extra bonus made this movie worth while, and provided for sufficient material to fill the 100 minutes running time. Being severed from his patrol unit, and his struggle all night long to get back to them, would on itself not have been enough. But the second half brought enough additional elements to make up a wonderful film, regardless of the underlying war-zone struggles in Belfast that we don't understand anymore nowadays. Nevertheless, such issues are of all times. We see ample similar civil wars elsewhere, also with an undercurrent of religious differences.

In the final scenes we see an internal inquest into what happened, but not all people tell the truth and nothing but the truth. I failed to get a grip on this finale, and could not understand which a**es were exactly covered up by who. It did not ruin my viewing experience, however. This film is not about Action alone, but also about the missing "good" and "bad" delineations inherent to civil war situations. Covering up stupid mistakes and shifting the blame is something of all times, as are double agents working for both sides.
"71" (2014 release from the UK; 100 min.) brings the story of Gary Hook, a British soldier. As the movie opens, we see Gary training with the rest of his platoon. It isn't long before they are informed that they are being sent to deal with "a deteriorating situation in Belfast". Before shipping out, Gary spends some quality time with his son. Upon arriving in Belfast, it isn't long before the platoon is sent out in the streets of Belfast. Due to a blunder by the platoon's lieutenant, soon they find themselves in the midst of a street riot, and they retread. In all of the confusion, Hook is left behind and he runs for his life, being chased by several Catholics bent on killing him. At this point we are 15-20 min. into the movie. Will Hook make it out alive? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: this is the feature debut from French director Yann Demange, and what a remarkable debut it is. "71" is both a top notch political movie and action thriller. How many movies can make that claim? The tension that builds up in the street riots is incredible, and remain palpable later on. Once Hook escapes the first immediate danger, he catches his breath, and only then realizes the horrible position that he finds himself in, and every choice he makes from here on out can be the wrong one. As to the political side, things are not clearly black and white, and in fact the comment is made several times in the movie that "the situation is confused" and we can't always tell who the "good" guys and the "bad" guys are. I suspect that this is an accurate reflection of how things were like back then in Northern Ireland. The cast is, for me anyway, a cast of unknowns. Jack O'Connell as Hook brings an incredible performance. Last but not least, there is an outstanding score for this movie, courtesy of David Holmes (best known for his scores from the Ocean's 11-12-13 series).

The movie opened finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The early evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay. Even though I had high expectations going in, they were met, and then some. In fact, the only negative point I will mention is that at times I had trouble understanding all the lives, due to the (fake or real, I'm not sure) Northern Irish accents. Bottom line: if you are in the mood for a top notch quality political and action drama, you cannot go wrong with this. "71" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
I felt this was a film about N Ireland made for audiences outside N Ireland. As with many films portraying my home country, most of the accents made me cringe. Also, the effect of a burning car or bus at the end of ever street was overdone. As for the pints of Guinness served like pints of bitter ..... Life was bad during the troubles, but not that bad. The film didn't gloss over the life of a squaddie, being required to do things and be places they probably had no understanding of. The quote about army life, which seems to be used in most media discussions, "the rich telling the stupid to shoot the poor" sums it up well. The portrayal of the role of special ops and their relationship with all sides in the conflict would probably be educational for those with a limited knowledge of N Ireland's history over the past 40 years. I'm glad I saw this movie but I have little inclination to watch it again.
Just out of military training, Thommo and Gary are soon on their way to Northern Ireland. "You're not going out of the country," people say to them cheerfully "so you should feel good about that." They do not feel good about this. There are burning vehicles, bombs and deafening mobs with rocks, bags of excrement and other crude weapons. This is not a good time to find yourself separated from your unit, yet Gary manages to do so. Suddenly he is alone on the streets of Belfast and in the wrong kind of green clothing. Gary is in for a long night. There are no clear lines between the U.K. military, I.R.A., paramilitary units on both sides, those just trying to help or those who will sell him to the highest bidder. Of course there is a role for luck too. Gary places his trust in a little kid who has grown up a little too quickly. The two descend into secret passageways, pouring rain and a maelstrom of violence and deception. The finely wrought film is full of intensity and realism. In all its violence and brutality there is a decent message about the intolerable toll that such violence takes on people and society. It is only on the streets of Belfast that Gary discovers he is "just a piece of meat" to those who order him around. The main actor is still a little green, and not in a sense that he is Irish but that he is just starting out. He does well though. So did the filmmakers. The director said he picked the main actor for the role after just sharing a beer with him. I wish all such interviews were so easy. "Thankfully people believed in me" said the director. Yes, thankfully! Seen at the Princess of Wales Theatre and the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
Steamy Ibis
Steamy Ibis
This movie manages to be thrilling throughout as the character tries to survive the Troubles. However, the last 20 minutes or so unnecessarily overcomplicates the plot with contrived twists. Also, a more minor flaw, but the characters could've been developed a bit more.

I appreciate the realism in many of the parts of the movie, such as the inept bomb handler. Handling bombs isn't always easy.

+ Thrilling

+ Realism to it

  • Flawed plot in last 20 minutes

  • Characters could be a little better

I can't give it the best rating, so I'll give it a 7.
Set in 1971, a year before the infamous Bloody Sunday tragedy, '71 tells the story of a young British soldier Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) sent to Northern Ireland on active service, who becomes involved in an exercise designed to protect the Royal Ulster Constabulary as they raid a Catholic house, much to the local residents' anger. Hook gets separated from his fellow-soldiers and eventually gets lost in the back streets of Belfast. He is eventually rescued, but in the process discovers the seamy truth about daily life during the Irish Troubles.

Filmed in and around the streets of Yorkshire, Yanin Demange's film has a newsy feel to it; this is chiefly due to the use of a hand-held camera that photographs the action in jerky style, with fast cutting and an emphasis on incident rather than characterization. This approach works well on one level, as it emphasizes the atmosphere of perpetual danger prevailing in Belfast at that time, where no one - not least the citizens themselves - knew who their friends were. Loyalties perpetually shifted, despite the religious divisions and the prevailing antipathy towards the British soldiers, who were often regarded (especially by the Catholic population) as representatives of the colonizing power.

On the other hand, the film has little real sense of socio- historical context. The action plays out like a gangster thriller, with several sequences of physical violence interspersed with (the mostly male) cast swearing at any and every opportunity. We never really discover why people actually behaved as they did during the early Seventies; why the troops were brought in; and whether the troops' presence at that time differed from other periods in Irish history (for example, in the action leading up to and following the 1916 Rebellion). It seems that Demange has sacrificed analysis in favor of action and incident.

As a result, we are left with a film that despite its title seems curiously ahistorical. Its subject-matter could refer to any internecine conflict past and present; while the characters' reactions tend towards the predictable. '71 represents a missed opportunity; viewers wanting to find out more about Irish history might be better advised to watch ODD MAN OUT (1946) or THE CRYING GAME (1992).
This action drama is one of those that starts out slow then is a non- stop roller coaster.

You think you know a lot about the problems in Ireland? Well this was an eye opener for me.

I did not realize how much of a 'hot' 'war' it really was until I watched this film.

The harrowing experience of the soldier brought out the confusing nature of this war. It was a war.

So confusing to go from safe to dangerous by location, simple which place you were. I think Vietnam for the US may have been a similar experience, that is you think you are somewhere safe and civil to find out those around you are with the enemy.

While I sympathize with the overall circumstance of the North, I was shocked about the real life methods of the IRA. I guess I didn't really understand and never really looked at it this closely.

I can't imagine being a soldier in this circumstance. At battle with civilians. Awful.

I have a new respect for both sides in the conflict after viewing this film.
Many other reviewers have commented the apparent authenticity of the production, it certainly feels like the time it was set in both in terms of costumes but also the camera-work - the "mise en scene" if you wish to call it that...

The narrative is very efficient. We are briefly told the story of a recruit in the British army as he receives training and then is promptly sent to Ireland. There are a few clichés that raise their ugly heads, for example the well meaning but inexperienced Lieutenant who ignores his sergeant and exposes his men to unnecessary danger - a trope of so many Vietnam films.

His mistake leads to one soldier being cut off from his platoon and having to try to navigate out of enemy territory. The complexity of the 'troubles' leads to confusion over who he can trust as IRA gunmen, protestant paramilitaries, and his own side, hunt him for very different reasons.

Unfortunately the film cannot carry the terrific pace and tension of the first 30-45 minutes and after a dramatic scene mid film the story unravels somewhat as it searches for an ending. Some rather clunky twists in the final half hour cheapened what was otherwise a very good film and reduced it, in my opinion, from a great effort to just above average.
This film follows a British soldier who gets left behind in Belfast and has to survive the night whilst being hunted down by the enemy. '71 had some moments of intense action, thrilling suspense and plenty of emotion, meaning it had something in it for everyone. When i heard it was another war film, i instantly got an image of what i thought it was going to be but to my surprise it was very different from your average war film. In some ways better and in some worse. The best parts of this movie were when it was focusing on your main protagonist played by Jack O'Connell and showing the different emotions he was going through. You really get o see how certain experiences damaged or changed him and forced him to find ways to survive. This powerful performance is why i liked the first half of this movie more than the second, after the soldier gets lost in Belfast i felt that the film focused a little too much on the secondary characters. They just weren't as well developed and interesting to keep me invested. The second half although did have some intense edge-of-seat moments that helped me get through it. The main downside of this film is that the plot really wasn't all that interesting, it tries to engage you by setting up multiple characters, some of which have ulterior motives but none of them except for a young boy were that interesting. There was some shaky cam in this movie also that at some times was effective but at other times felt a little annoying and unnecessary.

This film was a little bit of a disappointment for me after hearing so many good things about it. Despite the let down with the plot the performance by Jack O'Connell will still get you through the movie just enough to be able to enjoy it. - 6
Jack O'Connell plays Gary Hook, a private in the British Army sent to Belfast, who finds himself separated from his men during a raid that turns into a riot. His mission thereon is to survive the night and get back to his barracks. This is the entire plot – or perhaps should have been. Events are complicated by Captain Sandy Browning's (Sean Harris) undercover operatives, whose methods are, shall we say, 'questionable' and whose allegiances are 'fluid'. I wonder about the casting of the ever-excellent Harris in a role that seems to demand brawny over creepy, but it shouldn't detract from what is a very accomplished directorial debut from Yann Demange.

Gregory Burke's script stripped down to the point of sparseness. There's a moment when a sympathetic doctor explains the entire structure of the military hierarchy through a handful of choice words, three of which are the same and begin with "C". The screenplay is merely a vehicle for the experience of one soldier – one pawn – as he witnesses someone else's war from the inside. It's an intense experience; a brisk exercise in tension and spasms of violence, rather than out-and-out action. Mirroring the horrifying situation in Northern Ireland at the time, there's a sense that anyone can die, any time, in the blink of an eye. The evocation of the period is impressive, without resorting to TV clips and newsreels; instead, it's all crap cars, crapper clothes, and mum-hair.

As high concept thrillers go, there are no new ideas as such, simply a new setting in which to deposit those old ideas. Permeating is an air of John Carpenter's Escape from New York – and I would have preferred more Carpenter luridness and less Greengrass realism – as well as hints of Children of Men, particularly in one single-take sequence involving a pub bombing.

Demange doesn't shy away from the violence but nor does he shy from the effects of doing violence to others. This is a film about the perpetrators of pain, briefly exploring the theme of culpability. Hook is just a grunt, put in a situation where he must kill or be killed. Can he be held responsible for what he must do next? Embodying this anguish, it's another very strong performance from O'Connell. '71, Starred Up, and the forthcoming Unbroken should cement him as the new British face of brutal cinema.

I'm not sure '71 is a film to be taken totally seriously – indeed, it never quite resolves its dual identity as a chase-'em-up and an issue movie – but Yann Demange is a serious new talent to watch.
Lahorns Gods
Lahorns Gods
War tends to find its way in movies the way a car chase, love triangle or training sequence does, as a backdrop for profound introspection (Apocalypse Now) or profound absurdity (Battleship). '71, directed by Yann Demange, which screened at the New York Film Festival, does not concern itself with the impossibility of unraveling the politics behind violence, or implant an over-the- top action sequence, but uses the Northern Ireland conflict of the late 60's and early 70's as context, not base.

The Catholic/ Protestant, or even English/ Irish conflict is not covered in great detail which allows the film to construct its own sensibility: a netherworld where an English soldier sent to Belfast, Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell), must find trust and a way back. Houses are not homes, but bunkers for families supposedly hiding guns and trying to raise children. Bombs are the weapons of choice and children are the only ones with answers, creating a sci-fi texture to the film. This is a thriller and the plot is something you can find out about when you actually see the movie.

War, conflict (whatever you want to call killing a bunch of people) is an abyss not just of death, but of trust—who values my life? No one. Yet Demange does not attempt to make an affected statement about war, and focuses on the grey of the conflict with Gary as his sharp, contrasting center. As Gary slowly emerges through the desolate streets of Belfast he is greeted by a boy (Corey McKinley) who seems to be his only salvation. The boy struts, demanding respect as he cusses out his fellow "comrades" in a scene that could be strait out of Blade Runner.

During the Q&A after the film Demange recalled not wanting McKinley to rehearse too much, he didn't want an actor, but a real boy who in such a setting needs an armor of bravado to stay alive. McKinley, who Demange found at a boxing ring (he's 9), preferred boxing to rehearsing in between scenes, and it paid off. Besides O'Connell McKinley is the most memorable actor in the film. O'Connell, who made a mark with This is England and the series Skins, recently burst into films consciousness with the prison drama Starred Up, and is about to find himself in epic American waters with Angelina Jolie's directorial debut Unbroken. At only twenty-four years of age O'Connell has managed to create a provoking and mature persona. With a gruff low voice and edgy exterior, O'Connell brings a swagger which is unparalleled as almost every scene belongs to him and the film works because of him.

I am a bit afraid after his American debut, O'Connell will somehow loose his edge, but he comes across as smarted than the Hollywood unconsciousness. He has a lot to give us and this is only the beginning, handle with care (300: Rise of an Empire, yeah he's in that). Although thrillers tend not to be my cup of tea, I like developed characters and layers of plot—'71 takes place in the span of 24 hours—it is still an exceptional piece mainly due to O'Connell's masterful performance, Demange's restrained direction and Tat Radcliffe's stylized cinematography.

'71 is still making the festival rounds and does not yet have a U.S. release date, but will be released in the U.K. on October 10th.

@MeMontgom filmnoises.com
Review: I thought a soldiers moto was to never leave a soldier behind! That is definitely not the case in this movie! After the emergency troops get called to search a house in Belfast for some guns, the neighbourhood gather to protest against the soldiers and the situation becomes violent when they see a policeman beating a man on the street. The trouble becomes out of hand so the army escape the situation, leaving two of there soldiers behind. One of them gets murdered in a brutal way so the main character, played by Jack O'Connell, ends up on the run, fearing for his life. This movie was extremely dark and intense throughout. After the soldier gets abandoned, he gets the help from a couple of people in the community but he's soon hunted down and ends up having to take matters in his own hands. I must admit, I was expecting a bit more from this film because O'Connell is a good actor, but I found it a bit safe. It kind of dries up until the big showdown at the end, which is a shame because the concept was quite good. There are a few unnecessary scenes with O'Connell staring into mid-air but you can't fault it for intensity. Anyway, it's a average movie which is watchable but it does hit a brick wall after a while. Average!

Round-Up: Since Jack O'Connell's brilliant performance in Starred Up, he's been getting high praises in the UK and abroad. He currently starred in Angelina Jolie's movie, Unbroken and he also starred in 300: Rise of the Empire and the great Harry Brown. At the age of 24, he's fairly new to the game but I'm sure that were going to see him in a few big blockbusters later on in his career. In this film he put in an intense and emotional performance which was quite realistic and quite graphic in some scenes. After seeing the bonus parts of the DVD, he really did his homework to get the character right. Personally, the movie lost its ummpph after the soldier was on the run but it does pick up near the end. 

Budget: £8.1million Worldwide Gross: $1.7million

I recommend this movie to people who are into their intense war/drama/thrillers about a soldier who is left behind by his troops whilst fighting an intense battle against a radical and, violent group in Belfast. 5/10
The tense scenes were fantastic and at times 71 was shocking, gripping and captivating. For me the first 30 minutes where you are introduced to the characters, the armies and authorities and when the British Army are deployed in Northern Ireland, were stand out, especially compared to what followed.

Apart from a few dodgy accents, I thought the acting was great. Jack O'Connell was brilliant, but not given as interesting role as he was previously in Starred-UP.

However 71 was let down by it quickly drifting into a thriller/action film, when Jack's character is left abandoned behind territory lines. From this moment on I encountered the scenes of violence more pornographic than necessary. All seemed a bit crass and typical.

I would recommend seeing it, but ultimately it was a let down by the story-telling of one character rather than actually digging deep into the political problem. Shame.
It took me a while to finally give this film a chance, but I actually do not regret watching it. It was enjoyable, had a great pace, and had enough unexpected twists and turns to keep you guessing. The movie was also full of characters who seemed weak but faced stressful situations that they did not look like handling, and that created a lot of tension in the movie. An element, as I always say, essential if you are to like a movie. Being a foreigner, I don't know if this is based on real events, but either way, I thought the movie was definitely better than the rating its given. I have seen a lot worse with ratings of 8 or above on IMDb.
Much to his surprise, a young, inexperienced British soldier, Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell), is posted to Northern Ireland (he is expecting to be sent to Germany). It is the time of the Troubles and he and his fellow squaddies are plunged immediately into a bewildering maelstrom of rioting and factional violence on the mean streets of Belfast. During a brutal melee, Hook becomes separated from his unit. From that moment on, he is a marked man . . .

The main action takes place among half-derelict streets and soulless concrete blocks of 'social' housing, all washed with rain and lit by the eerie glow of neon street-lights. A chilling sense of menace pervades this desolate landscape as shadowy figures go about their deadly business. No one is safe in this world, a world in which disputes are contested primarily with the hand-gun, the bomb and the expedient deal. Even, perhaps especially, the forces of law-and-order are not what they seem - as Hook learns to his cost.

In this well-crafted and beautifully photographed movie, O'Connell is outstanding as Hook, the infantry's innocent abroad. For much of the time he says little or nothing, but, as his pursuers close in, we still experience every moment of his fear, shock and disorientation with profound intensity. Physical pain is powerfully portrayed during a scene in which his wounds are stitched without the benefit of anaesthetic, an exceptional gut-wrenching sequence. Corey McKinley also gives a superb performance as the Loyalist boy who is already a man, hardened to a life of urban strife. Indeed, the acting overall can hardly be faulted.

The camera-work is also quite brilliant; for example, as Hook staggers and stumbles through the streets the camera staggers and stumbles with him, carrying us right into the action. Everything combines to yield an absolutely convincing depiction of human lives reduced to something 'nasty, brutish and short.'

A weakness of this movie is that by the end it is difficult to be sure of precisely who has done what to whom and why. Art has perhaps mirrored the complexity and sheer opaqueness of sectarian politics a little too closely. But this does not detract from the overall quality of the viewing experience and the tremendous emotional charge that it delivers.

Highly recommended.

(Viewed at Screen 3, The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK on 19th October 2014)
The directing on this bloody, chaotic anatomy of The Troubles in Belfast is outstanding. Amid all the bombs, gunfire, and tear gas, and with most scenes shot at night, the focus remains sharp -- the story of a British soldier who becomes a fugitive behind Republican lines when his mate is shot dead during a riot and his unit leaves him behind. Jack O'Connell (who is actually of Irish background) is fantastic as the fresh faced British recruit who encounters a succession of horrors in just one black night. Neither side emerges as more noble, or less violent, than the other. Richard Dormer is outstanding as the calculating but not unlikeable, double agent Eamon, who stays alive by switching his allegiance at exactly the right time. But all the actors show a human side - they are not just killing machines. The script is incredibly good, and the production design, editing and special effects are superb. The cinematography deserves special mention -- it is amazing. It never hits a wrong note, with perfect lighting and focus. The only quibble I have is with the scene where the Ulster boy promises to lead the soldier to safety - the boy's accent was so thick I couldn't understand it, but he was quite a good little actor and you caught his meaning by his actions.