Jack O’Connell plays Gary Hook, a British soldier sent to West Belfast in 1971. Hook has been recruited from a challenging social background in the North of England and is more than somewhat out of his depth in the midst of the conflict in which the plot plays out. Following a bungled search he finds himself alone and separated from his squad. An innocent abroad he must navigate the sectarian divisions in the communities. “Film-makers have rarely dared to use the Troubles as a backdrop to any sort of mainstream entertainment. You cannot, after all, move through those waters without picking up inconvenient political residue in every exposed crevice. Demange’s film engages with more than a few controversies.” Donald Clarke, The Irish Times. (Cert 15)
Dir: Yann Demange 95mins UK 2014
A young British soldier is accidentally left behind by his unit on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971.
Screenwriter Gregory Burke invites us to spend a night at the ‘mouth of hell’ that was the Falls Road, Belfast in 1971, as seen through the eyes of young British squaddie Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) on his first tour of duty. An early indication of why young soldiers tend to die first is shown when an upper-class commanding officer woefully misreads a developing situation and thrusts his wet-behind-the-ears company into a ferocious street riot. It’s not long before Hook finds himself with almost no chance of survival, when he is left behind in the chaos. Firmly in the sights of a gang of Provisionals, he is soon fleeing for his life – a chase that will see him run headlong into the shifting allegiances and collateral casualties of this internecine war.
Burke is interested in people not politics, keeping his focus on the sudden outbreaks of inhumanity and humanity in the madness, showing in particular how the hatred on any side of a conflict can become distilled and instilled in the young, so that it is as poisonous as it is senseless. Debut director Yann Demange, with cinematographer Tat Radcliffe, match Burke’s acid-sharp script with taut action, steeping the night scenes in an orange glow that recalls faded Polaroids of the period.
In 2014, ’71 won the British Independent Film Award for Best Director, from nine nominations, and was widely seen on the festival circuit, appearing at the Berlin (its release screening), Karlovy, New York and London Festivals in 2104 and at Sundance in 2015. The USA National Review Board named ’71 as one of its top ten independent films of 2015.
Acknowledgements: Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film
“Despite its flaws, ’71 offers a lapel-grabbing, immersive [ … ] experience likely to shake up audiences who couldn’t otherwise care less about the [ … ] whys and wherefores of Northern Ireland’s bitterest years” Trevor Johnston, Sight&Sound
Gary Hook – Jack O’Connell
Sgt Leslie Lewis – Paul Anderson
Lieutenant Armitage – Sam Reid
Thommo – Jack Lowden
Young Rioter – Aaron Lynch
Director – Yann Demange
Producers – Angus Lamont, Robin Gutch et al
Screenplay – Gregory Burke
Cinematography – Tat Radcliffe
Original Music – David Holmes
- The kind of film that leaves me speechless, brilliantly showing us a senseless hell
- Superb piece of gritty drama with many gripping twists and turns. Thought provoking, too
- Complimented other films about this troubled chapter in British history, such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday, with its contemporary editing and thrilling set pieces
- Gripping and believable throughout
- A gripping and tense thriller. Very interesting story
- Tense and gripping vision of the early days of the Troubles
- Powerful and realistic – not pulling any punches about the confusion and brutality of civil war
- Great performance from Jack O’Connell. Tangled web of deceit mixed with glimpses of humanity
- Gripping portrayal of situations that were hellish and confusing to ordinary people who found themselves involved
- A strong exposition of conflicting loyalties. A bit too much Tarantino at the end, though
- It’s too easy to forget the events of ’71 in Ireland – over 40 years ago now – but don’t forget (the line) “The army looks after its own – do you understand?”
- A good thriller but uncomfortable viewing
- Gruelling but honest Unremittingly grim and depressing – and I don’t think it would pass the Bechdel test!
- Was it really 46 years ago?
- Don’t be a soldier!