April 13 '71 2014 UK English
Director: Yann Demange
Cast:: Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, Richard Dormer, Paul Anderson
Runtime: 100 mins.
Country: United Kingdom
A gripping and intense thriller set on the mean streets of Belfast in the early years of the Troubles, ’71 is a remarkably assured feature debut for director Yann Demange. Written by Scottish playwright Gregory Burke (who effectively explored soldier psychology in his award-winning stage play Black Watch), and an official selection of the 2014 Berlinale, ’71skillfully navigates the bloody politics of the era to focus on the horrors suffered by ordinary soldiers and civilians at the heart of this brutal conflict.
Rising star Jack O’Connell (Starred Up and the upcoming Unbroken) gives a galvanizing performance as Gary Hook, a fresh British recruit whose unit is dispatched to help with peacekeeping in the Northern Irish capital during the fatefully violent year of 1971. After a routine house raid in the Catholic part of town goes awry, Gary finds himself separated from his unit and pursued by an armed gang of Provisional IRA militia. With night closing in and no idea how to get back to his barracks, he must throw himself on the mercy of loyalist allies, whose nominal sympathies by no means translate into guarantees of sanctuary.
Visceral and palpably tense, ’71 offers a grunt’s-eye-view of a brutal and complex conflict, with O’Connell undeniably impressive and wholly convincing in his naïve and disbelieving reactions to the horrors around him. Beautifully shot, sporting an atmospheric production design that fully immerses you in the fraught and claustrophobic setting, and directed with a great sense of pace and excitement, ’71 is a haunting story of survival that elevates a specific situation to universal relevance.