The beauty of Yann Demange’s film ‘71’ is its humanity and also it doesn’t pull its punches.
No one in Derry needs an introduction to the Troubles and quite frankly I am not qualified to do such a thing but ‘71’ feels authentic and has all the intensity that 100 games of Russian roulette would possess.
English actor, Jack O’Connell (‘300: Rise of an Empire’) plays Private Gary Hook - a twenty something squadie from working class Derbyshire.
Set in, yes you’ve guessed it, in 1971, Private Hook and his battalion are sent to patrol the streets of Belfast.
The battalion’s first operation is to accompany the RUC into West Belfast where they will carry out several house raids.
As Hook and his fellow soldiers line the street a riot breaks out and both Hook and another soldier become separated from the rest of the battalion.
The battalion leaves West Belfast without the two soldiers. Hook’s only option is to stay alive long enough for his battalion to find him.
The streets of Belfast were as vicious a place as any other during the height of the Troubles and British soldiers were viewed as fair game by the IRA.
The level of distrust and paranoia was heading towards acute levels and those who found themselves at the front line of the violence were placed there at the behest of men with strong ideological beliefs.
One of the most impressive aspects of Demange’s movie is its refusal to take sides.
Admittedly, MI5 emerge as the movie’s aggressors but the republican and loyalist paramilitaries and the British army are all presented in equal lights.
It’s the similarities between the republican and loyalist paramilitaries which will be the most striking to international audiences.
Jack O’Connell is great as Private Gary Hook and there impressive displays from the brilliant Sean Harris (‘Harry Brown’) and Killian Scott (‘Love, Hate’).
Filmed on location in Blackburn, Demange brings the Belfast of yesteryear to life on the big screen and despite its brutality I couldn’t help but remark on the film’s stunning cinematography.
Northern Irish electronic musician and composer, David Holmes, provides the film’s music and it’s easily one of the most amazing aspect of the movie.
The script is a little contrived and simplistic at times but everything else about ‘71’ is all present and correct. It’s a real nail biter of a movie and it will most certainly not disappoint.
‘71’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl. For full cinema listings visit www.brunswickmoviebowl.com or telephone 028 71 371 999.
VERDICT: 4/5 - Making a movie about a British soldier stranded on the streets of Belfast in 1971 was always going to be contentious but director Yann Demange has pulled it off. The beauty about ‘71’ is the way it presents two sides who were much involved in the killing of others as human. Another great trait which the movie has is its refusal to take sides. At the centre of the movie is a glowing humanity and it’s made extra special because of the darkness with which it find itself in. Sean Harris is fantastic as ruthless MI5 agent Captain Sandy Browning. David Holmes’ soundtrack is outstanding.