71 – Review
“71” is a fictional story that takes place in 1971 in both the UK and Ireland with the arc of the film’s story covering a single 18 hour period mostly at night. We also see early in the film the principal figure; a young British soldier named Private Gary Hook played by actor Jack O'Connell who was last seen in the film “Unbroken” and the real life Lou Zamperini.
Initially, we see Gary (somewhat gleefully) going through the rigors of his basic training somewhere in the UK countryside. While a bit shy, Gary is committed to his unit as well to being a devoted father to his 12 year old son who is being taken care by others until he completes his training. His obvious hope is to make the Army his career so as to provide a better life for both him and his soon, which seems especially all the more promising after he gets the general understanding from his commanding officer that upon completion of training he will probably get a relatively easy safe assignment somewhere in Germany or Europe.
But shortly after his training is completed, senior officers tell him and his unit that they will be assigned temporarily to British occupied Northern Ireland to suppress a recent outbreak of riots in the occupied area of Belfast, just long enough to arrest some individuals who are responsible for the violence.
When his Army unit arrives, rioting and chaos start almost immediately on the Belfast streets where they are to make their arrest. During the rock throwing chaos Gary is given orders to chase a particular trouble maker that results in Gary being accidentally separated and ultimately abandoned by his unit. Lost, alone and being hunted, Gary is unable to tell Protestant friend from Catholic foe and increasingly wary of everyone he inadvertently meets as he tries to find his way back to safety.
The Pros: Directed by first time director Yann Demange, the film runs about 1:40 minutes with every moment seemingly had me sitting on pins and needles as I watched Gary literally fight for his life. While the film clearly has a position - a point of view who is just and right and those who are unjust and wrong (to a degree), it never takes sides so demonstratively to totally not understand respectfully the merits of both sides and their hard fought positions. It also never gets buried down in the needless weeds of ever discussing the specific historical origins and politics of this domestic violent strife. It stays purposely focused on telling a truly convincing story of raw heavy emotions of real DNA hatred and real DNA revenge without ever being cluttered with unimportant personal backgrounds.
Watching this film I found myself having goose bumps of real tension and real anxiety of what it must be like to being placed in such a perilous situation where the slightest wrong move could result in a quick execution.
“71” is a truly potent, emotional and highly effective film both as a humanistic thriller and as a military thriller, blending very creatively feelings of real drama in the living moment. It also at the same created very convincingly an almost dreamlike sense of confusion as it parallels the feelings of horror; the horror feeling of having something or someone out there purely evil lurking about just to kill you.
The Cons: With the few rare occasions where the dialog involved a heavy Irish brogue accent that left me wondering what someone said on a few occasions, 71 is executed fabulously in acting, directing, imagination and writing.
Conclusion: The film is only being released in a limited number of theaters which probably means it is not playing in your community. But when it comes to On Demand I implore you to sit down to see it. For me it is the best film I have seen thus far for 2015 as it is masterful, clever, smart, intense and exhilarating from minute to minute.