’71 (2014)

’71 (2014)
  • Time: 99 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Yann Demange
  • Cast: Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, Paul Anderson, Sam Reid


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.


  • The Troubles have been depicted in various films such as Cal, In the Name of the Father, Hunger, and Bloody Sunday. Now we have ’71, a highly auspicious debut from acclaimed television director Yann Demange (Top Boy, Criminal Justice) that uses the political turmoil to execute a taut survival thriller.

    Private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is the film’s focal point; he and his regiment have been ordered to Belfast to serve as backup for the local police force, the RUC, who are conducting a door-to-door search for guns in a Catholic neighbourhood. Their debriefing outlines the volatile lay of the land: there are the friendly Protestant Loyalists and the Catholic Nationalists, both sides with paramilitary factions; within the Republic, there’s a split between the older IRA elements and the younger, more radical streetfighters.

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  • 71′ I imagine is the year this film is set as in 1971. In that year Gunner Robert Curtis was the first British Casualty during the troubles and in the following month was the death of the 3 Scottish Soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers 2 of which where brothers, they where off-duty and led astray by a group of females who set the trap for the IRA to execute them in cold blooded murder.
    71 starring Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris and Paul Popplewell as well another few familiar faces from RTE’s award winning crime drama LOVE/HATE, tells the story of a fresh faced new recruit who is thrown straight into the deep end in his first tour of duty into the mean streets of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Private Gary Hook’s (Jack O’Connell) first assignment turns sour and somehow he manages to get left behind. The film follows his journey as he tries to make good use of the his new found military training in order to get home safe and sound.
    Overall, I thought the performances from each actor where absolutely fine. Sean Harris is really good at playing a cunt isn’t he? Jack O’Connell has been described as emerging talent however real British film heads know that he has been circling the big time for quite a while and is now being head hunted by Hollywood’s elite and rightly so. He is very convincing in his role, sometimes showing a new recruits naivety, an innocence that’s not yet been ripped right out of him. As they say in boxing, you can only knock out what’s put in front of you and in this case that is what Jack O’Connell is doing. I need to add that I think in the not to distant future, we will see more from Barry Keoghan who plays Sean Bannon in the film. He gives another great performance just like he did in Ireland’s premier Gangland TV Drama LOVE/HATE. Keep and eye out for him.
    My problem with the film is this, whoever wrote this shite, didn’t think about it all. I can see that he tried to get some things right in terms of the touts (IRA or Republicans who became informants for MI5, British Army etc), the street riots and the ruthlessness of the paramilitaries on both sides of the divide but the whole British Army supplying the U.V.F with a semtex bomb to use on the IRA is a bit controversial in my eyes. Did any of you catch the name of the General of the UVF who owned the pub? Billy Fullerton. Aye, they took the name from a guy who started a razor gang called the Billy Boys in Glasgow who where Protestant in faith and often fought with a gang of Catholic boys from the same city called the Tim Malloy’s. That name in some quarters is controversial and has caused many an argument and even murder between men women and children in my home city of Glasgow because of what some people think it represents. To me the writer Gregory Burke has tried to be smart but looks like a complete over thinking wanker. I’m not going to go into the ending because for me it’s quite sickening in a sense that it’s one big load of codswallop. This is a pure fantasy non fictional story created by someone who knows sweet fuck all about the troubles and certainly didn’t research it from the British, Loyalist and Republican sides. The fact that Gregory Burke has chosen 71 as the name and then thrown a very controversial storyline is quite sickening and disrespectful to our fallen on that year and in some ways it’s disrespectful to both sides of the divides intelligence. A line in the film says, the posh boys train the idiots to kill the poor. That can be construed in the soldiers training weather it be a Brit, Loyalist or Republican.
    If however like so many, couldnt give a monkeys about the troubles and would like to watch a guerrilla warfare film that has a story of sadness, despair and treachery? Then you will absolutely love it.
    I’d give this film a 6 out of 10 and it’s lucky it’s getting that
    Taken from IMDB
    “71” has nine nominations, including for British independent film, director and debut director for Demange, screenplay for Gregory Burke, actor for Jack O’Connell and supporting actor for Sean Harris.”
    In regards to these nominations, I honestly think the creators of this film have gave it minimal thought about the facts but instead they went with an idiotic version of a story that’s aimed at people outwith Norn Ireland and I include Scottish people in that too.

  • This film is recommended.

    In brief: A gripping war thriller that matter-of-factly tells its tale of a soldier caught behind enemy lines.

    GRADE: B+

    A city can outlive the atrocities of war. Time may all but erase the memory of bloodied injuries and its once escalating death toll as new generations push those events further to the back of their minds. Warsaw. Hiroshima. Berlin. Dresden. Saigon. All places that were war zones that now camouflage the suffering and only hint at the wounded lives and destruction that came before.

    71 visits such a a time and a place. Belfast. The Troubles. Catholic vs. Protestant. A most unholy holy war. Caught in the crossfire is Private Gary Hook (Jack O’ Connell), a soldier separated from his British Army band of brothers. Hook combs the mean streets, searching for a safe haven until he can be rescued and encounters various people on his journey, both sympathetic and otherwise.

    Well directed by newcomer Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke, 71 depicts that sorrowful event. The screenplay focuses on Hook’s ordeal and doesn’t add much details about the turmoil between the fighting factions. The dialog is minimal, although some of it was lost on me with its thick Irish brogue. (Subtitles would have enhance the moviegoing experience.) Characters and their motives remain either murky or purely of the black and white variety. What the film lacks in character development, it more that makes up in its tension-filled scenes of warfare.

    The chase scenes are riveting. Taut editing by Chris Wyatt and an effective score by David Holmes ratchet up the suspense. Tat Radcliffe’s hand-held camera work brings the moviegoer directly in the line of fire and cause us to immediately empathizes with the lost soldier and his dilemma. O’Connell’s performance is more intrinsic and physical. The actor’s strong screen presence says more than words itself. He becomes the common man, easily relatable and emotionally grounded. Fine supporting work by Killian Scott, Sean Harris, Richard Dormer, Charlie Murphy, and Sam Reid add to the film’s impact.

    Demange’s images of the war-torn village and its bombed-out ruins show a powerful vision and the director expertly handles the war scenes of escalating violence, with sudden bursts of savagery that left me gasping aloud at times. He is definitely a talent to watch and I look forward to his next venture.

    In this time of terrorism and religious extremism, 71 is a lasting testament to us all. The film recalls an era of violence, a time of lives lost or shamelessly corrupted, under the guise of religion freedom, that needs to be remembered in order to avoid repeating those mistakes once again.

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  • There have been precious few movies focusing on the Troubles in Northern Ireland – the conflict between the Nationalists and Loyalists that spread itself sporadically over four decades. The one film that comes immediately to mind is Paul Greengrass’s deeply upsetting and infuriating Bloody Sunday (2002), and ’71 shares much in common aesthetically. The grainy shaky-cam is omnipresent, and the violence is quick, ugly and brutal. Yet while Greengrass opted to let the true-life story tell itself and avoided making any overt political statements (though it’s understandably clear where his sympathy lies), ’71 makes a point of showing the many factions fighting and politicking with each other – often scheming within their own parties.

    New army recruit Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) says goodbye to his younger brother, who resides in care, before his battalion is shipped off to a particularly volatile area of Belfast in 1971. Whilst providing back-up during a neighbourhood search for firearms, Gary is separated from his squad after a crowd gathers and tempers start to ignite. Left beaten and bloodied after seeing one of his friends shot dead at close range by a group of Catholic Nationalists, Gary flees and must navigate his way through the streets armed only with a knife. As news of his disappearance spreads throughout the Loyalists, Nationalists and a shady MRF unit led by the creepy Captain Browning (Sean Harris), Gary finds his life in mortal danger from all sides, but finds help in the unlikeliest of places.

    ’71 is faced with the dangerous possibility of forging fictional entertainment out of a terrible, and relatively recent event, and coming out of it all looking rather insensitive. However, director Yann Demange, making an incredibly mature debut feature, is wise enough to cover the Troubles from all sides. Apart from a select few – including father and daughter Eamon and Brigid (played by Richard Dormer and Charlie Murphy) who take pity on Gary and tend to his many wounds – nobody comes out of it all looking particularly good. Every side has their own agenda, and it usually results in violence. And amidst all the chaos there’s Gary, a young lad bewildered by his new surroundings and too inexperienced to properly handle the situation, finding himself become a political pawn as he fights for his life.

    As a nail-biter, it’s positively riveting. There’s a moment that will make you jump out of your seat, but the action is never exploitative. When our leading man finds himself on his knees with a gun to the back of his head, his body convulses with shock and fear, elevating him from your typical movie hero to a real human being. O’Connell, though his character doesn’t have much time between attempted assassinations and screaming in pain to say much, continues to impress following his breakthrough in 2013 with Starred Up. It’s an extremely physical performance, and O’Connell is shockingly good at looking in genuine pain. Although it sometimes goes a bit overboard – the burning cars at the end of every street and the ever-present roaming aggressors make it seem like an Irish Dawn of the Dead meets Escape from New York – ’71 will leave you exhausted, exhilarated and possibly more educated.

    Rating: 4/5

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  • Through recorded history, humans have fought each other since the beginning of time. Whether this was over something legitimate or something completely worthless, humans start making ruckuses when they don’t get what they want. So much so that these uproars turn into huge confrontations that go on for lengthy periods of time. Look at the civil rights movement in the United States. African Americans fought for ages just to get their own rights and have the same level of equality as everyone else within the same borders. It’s ridiculous how long it took for people to accept this way of thinking. Mind you this is only one place during a certain period in the history of the world. Before this there occurred civilian riots and revolutions before then and it also happened simultaneously during that time. Even now there are places with civil unrest. With that said, several stories of these struggles have been made into films. This movie belongs in that category to a certain degree. Is it effective? Eh…kind of.

    This England based movie was headed by first time French theatrical director Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke as his first theatrical screenplay. Before this Demange had only directed TV episodes and Burke had only written for TV movies. In this story audiences follow Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), a soldier in training who is relocated to Belfast in order to help keep order among the civil unrest. During his first day on duty, chaos erupts and is accidentally left behind as his fellow comrades retreat. Stuck in enemy territory, Hook must try to escape before being executed by the rebellion that don’t hold English prisoners. The rebellion is led by Quinn (Killian Scott), Paul Haggerty (Martin McCann), Sean (Barry Keoghan) and a few others. This happens while his head officer Lt. Armitage (Sam Reid) tries to recover him along with some unexpected help from a man named Boyle (David Wilmot) on the other side as well.

    When it comes to well made movies, most have great writers paired up with great directors. That’s not to say Burke was not a good match with Demange because he definitely had the right ideas. However when it came to writing in backstories on certain elements, they go unexplained. At the start of the film, viewers are shown that Hook has a son and they have all of a brief two scenes together. We later on see the kind of impact having a child has on Hook but we don’t get to know much about his relationship with his son and why a mom doesn’t exist. The other component that could use some elaboration on was the setting at which this civil uproar takes place. The title itself says the year but as to why there was unrest, nothing is said. All viewers will know is that the residents of Belfast hate the Brits and want them out. Why? Is it just territorial control or does Belfast have a significant resource that England wants to hold onto? What? Unfortunately, there are more flaws within the script.

    Another troublesome aspect to Burke’s penmanship is that he barely has anything for Hook to say. Sure, as the audience watch they could assume why – possibly because he’s out of breath and tired…but even then, when talking with people, he doesn’t say much. There’s nothing wrong with having simplicity and having the actions speak louder than the words, but that can’t be majority of your execution all the time. For the most part, this is what it feels like. There are scenes of dialog involving other characters but it does get tiresome to watch the main protagonist say practically nothing the whole time. The acting on the other hand is praiseworthy. All the actors portray their characters in a way that feels human and relatable in at least one way. Plus with the overall situation, the tension is high in several places throughout the running time. Any time the hero ends up behind enemy lines, the steaks run very high. This takes us to another unique attribute; the direction.

    For his first time directing a theatrical film, Demange takes some significant risks with how he treats certain characters. Close to the start of the movie, there are sudden events that will have most viewers shocked of how unexpected a situation escalates. This happens more than once; so at that point the story telling becomes very unpredictable and that’s great. The special effects are well mixed into the execution as well. No part of it look excessively fake or out of place. There are some moments of gore but nothing on the extreme grindhouse level either. The cinematography shot by Tat Radcliffe was somewhat off-putting though. The events take place over one night (like a horror movie), so the majority of it is in the dark but so much of it has a sepia tone and it gives the movie a very dull energy and presence. The musical score composed by David Holmes was adequate. It did engage the emotions and was the most effective during the more tense scenes. Softer scenes not so much.

    Directionally, the movie is unpredictable which makes the tension quite good. The music and actors all perform well but the writing is where the film suffers. The main lead barely says a thing, his backstory is barely touched on, the situation of the setting isn’t explained and the camerawork is uneventful.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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