’71 Review

The Plot

Set in 1970s Belfast, 71 follows Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) a British soldier fresh out of training who is sent to Northern Ireland in the heart of the troubles. It’s not long after  his regiment arrives that violence breaks out and Hook finds himself cut adrift from his comrades. Now Hook must survive the night and find his way back to the army base before he’s caught by the enemies on Belfast’s dangerous streets.

The Good

Director Yann Demange brings a raw realism to the look and feel of 1970’s Belfast and sets the tone for the film quickly. With gritty backdrops of Irish streets and a dull grey tone to accompany the film’s dark story, Demange has certainly proven his talent in his first feature length film. With a simple yet effective story, Gregory Burke’s script leaves a lot for O’Connell to chew over. With the sectarian hostility being the films main interest, portraying it through the perspective of a young British soldier gives an interesting and often captivating depiction.

O’Connell is undoubtedly the star of this fearless drama. Much of the action is built around the tension he brings to the screen as Hook tries desperately to stay hidden with the help of a young loyalist boy, played by Corey McKinley. Though McKinley’s thick accent becomes often hard to understand, in spite of this he gives a strong performance for a young child actor and injects welcome humour in an otherwise dark storyline.

The Bad

Although it stays tense and thrilling throughout most of the 96 minute running time, 71 occasionally suffers from overlong scenes which somewhat diminish the film ever so slightly. While it works in most areas, one or two scenes could have been helped with a touch of trimming down. As well as this, David Wilmot, who plays Boyle, Hooks main threat in the film, could have done with a bit more to do. Wilmot brings a menacing and often terrifying performance in 71 but is not focused on as much as he could have been.

While Demange’s filmmaking style and techniques work incredibly well for much of the film, his chase sequences are left quite messy with a Bourne-esque shaky cam effect in use which some will find dizzying and feels a touch overused at times.

The Ugly Truth

Yann Demange has done incredibly well with his first feature length, tackling the tough subject of the Irish sectarian conflict. Setting it through the eyes of a young British soldier certainly gives it an interesting perspective and lead actor Jack O’Connell gives his all. Although it struggles with maintaining the tension at parts, 71 still manages to come out as an incredibly strong drama which will keep you entertained and enthralled.

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