Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
Remember the name Yann Demange, because sooner than later, he’ll be up on stage accepting an Oscar in the near future for his amazing talent as a director. His most recent film, which is more or less his first big feature film is called ‘71‘, and is one of the best “trapped behind enemy lines” movies in a very long time. Not only is the script, which was written by Gregory Burke simply brilliant, but the attention to detail in the period costumes, hair and makeup, and sets look incredible and fully immerses you into 1971 Belfast, Ireland, hence the title.
This story could be set in any war, past or present, but Demange and Burke’s decision to set during the height and most violent times of ‘The Troubles’ is outstanding. And without picking a social or political side of the story, this film hits every correct note from the eerie score that resembles something from John Carpenter to the way the film looks, which resembles films from the early 70s. The story focuses on a young soldier named Pvt. Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), who is shipped off with the rest of his platoon to the far off land of Belfast, Ireland, where they are to work with the local police to prevent anymore violence within the shoddy neighborhoods, who are all hell bent on a cultural and ethnic cleansing.
This is a war, that has claimed thousands of lives and is still going on today, but with less violence. After Hook spends the day with his kid brother back in England, he and his fellow soldiers are told by their commanding officer that they are not going home until they are severely wounded. Well, the following day, Hook and the rest of the outfit, escort local police to raid one of the housing projects to search for stolen guns. Tensions flare up and a riot occurs leaving people dead and Hook accidentally left behind on the wrong side of the tracks.
The rest of the film takes place during that evening he is stranded where a variety of people living in the area try to care for him. Hook is wounded, bleeding, and scared for his life as each side of ‘The Trouble’ along with some corrupt officers of the local law enforcement and certain paramilitaries are looking to gut and kill him, while some offer him solace. One person who looks after the soldier is a young foul-mouthed nine-year old kid (Corey McKinley), who just takes the spotlight away from everyone in every scene he’s in.
Shot over the course of basically one evening, Demange manages to keep the thrill factor high with some heavy foot chases through the maze-like streets that look apocalyptic, where anyone can come from around the corner and shoot you. Burke’s script is fined tuned with the authentic Irish dialect and perfectly weaves each side of this violent war against each other with a lonely, scared Pvt. Hook in the center of it. Jack O’Connell nails his role completely and without virtually saying much at all. His mannerisms, body language, and eyes tell this chaotic story that is on par with any Oscar winner.
One of the only things I found myself thinking that could have been done better here was Demange’s attempt to try to end the film. It seems to drag on with too many long walks and conclusions, when it could have ended several minutes earlier. However, it does not detract from anything from the film, as this is a very minor complaint. ‘71‘ is one of the better films of the year so far and I except big things from the talent here in the future. If you’re looking for a ‘behind the enemy lines’ type of film, then look no further than ‘71‘, because it might be one of the best.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
– Bryan Kluger