'71 (2014)

Action, Drama, Thriller
Jack O'Connell, Sam Reid, Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer
A young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971.
Powerfully directed and acted, '71 stays true to its fact-based origins while remaining as gripping as any solidly crafted action thriller.
  • Roadside Attractions Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 10 Oct 2014 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:

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A superb debut from this team - Brilliant piece of film making9/10
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.
Brutal, thrilling and utterly dramatic.10/10
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.
Quickly becomes as lost as its central protagonist5/10
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'.
The best film on 'the Troubles' so far9/10
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.
The curate's egg6/10
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.