’71 (2014) Film Review from the 58th Annual BFI London Film Festival, a movie directed by Yann Demange, starring Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, David Wilmot, Charlie Murphy, Martin McCann, Paul Anderson, Barry Keoghan, Sam Hazeldine, Killian Scott, Sam Reid, Valene Kane, Jack Lowden, Liam McMahon, Babou Ceesay, Kenton Hall, Dawn Bradfield and Gerard Jordan.
’71 takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during a particularly bloody year in the Country’s history. A young soldier is separated from his squad on a peace-keeping mission and his journey back to safety is chronicled in this film.
This seems to be the season for historic war films. We’ve already had several movies about both the World Wars. So, I suppose it only seemed fitting to have a film about the troubles in Northern Ireland during the years filled with civil unrest and bloodshed. This film manages to capture the horror of those times with exquisite detail. There is almost a sense of beauty in the chaos.
Jack O’Connell plays our lead, Pvt. Gary Hook. Gary is shown to be a soft centred, caring person, whose only option for a future is enlisting. He’s not a fighter by choice, and that much is proven throughout the film. O’Connell was simply brilliant in this role. There is a subtlety in his acting that’s quite beautiful in its own way. There is also an innocence in his eyes. An innocence that we see slowly fade-away. This turn is what helped me form my opinion of O’Connell’s talent. His performance seemed very real, fear vibrated through his voice as if he were truly about to meet his end.
With Gary walking around a destroyed Belfast, the film appears closer to a dystopian thriller than a War film (which may be a good thing). The film is visually stunning, nothing can be taken away from the work the directors and cinematographer’s put in to make this film seem as gritty as it is.
The film is full of thrills, with apparent danger lurking round every corner. The brilliance with which emotion and fear are seamlessly tied together is nothing short of remarkable. Every explosion sends a chill down the spine and we’re often left wondering where the next explosion will come from. The real fear of being targeted from all sides is not knowing who to trust.
As I’ve mentioned previously the film is visually beautiful. One aspect I found particularly worthy of a mention was how the movie is filmed on 16mm for day shoots and switches to digital for night sequences.
The score of ’71 was also outstanding, with the music almost creeping into your ear during the tensest moments and then being serene for the rare moments of tranquility.
’71 is far from what Bloody Sunday provided viewers but it still manages to push all the right buttons and make the audience believe that what’s happening before their eyes is somewhat possible.
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