England, 1971. New recruit Private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is deployed to Northern Ireland with the rest of his regiment to help police the rising tensions between the Protestant Loyalist’s and the Catholic Nationalists.
With no time to settle into their new home in a bleak abandoned school the platoon are sent on their first assignment, to aid the RUC in a house search. With the extreme heavy handiness the RUC deals out the situation soon spirals out of control. Gary soon finds himself abandoned by his unit following the riot. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.
’71 is Yann Demange’s directorial debut, better known for his work as a director for TV and also the critically acclaimed ‘Top Boy’, Demange seems to have pulled out a masterpiece from the bag. Not only does it connect on a human level, even though it is set in the 70’s, it also connects to what is going on in the world today, it’s a pretty timeless story which should appeal to all who care about what happens in our world.
It’s powerful, emotive and pretty damn graphic. It lures you in with humour one minute and makes you gasp out loud in shock & horror the next from the very offset of the film, making this a little bit of a rollercoaster of a ride. Two scenes in particular that will stick in your mind are that of when Gary and his fellow soldier are left abandoned. A local woman steps in to stop the lads from getting kicked to death, the situation calms a little when two guys show up from nowhere and point blank shoots one of them straight in the head. This caused a massive reaction in the screening, the biggest from me and I don’t shock easily.
The second scene in question is just heartbreaking, Gary builds up a brief friendship with a young boy who wants to help him find his way back to the barracks, it’s full of humour only to end in the boy being involved in a bombing which see’s him lose limbs. It’s a very human story.
Casting Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire, Starred Up) as the main character Gary, is just pure genius. He certainly is a star for the future. An actor’s ability to make a character come to life and seem so very real is part of their job, but not all pull it off in such a remarkable fashion. You can’t help but feel his pain, torment and anguish and root for him throughout the whole 99 minutes.
Not being a fan of the “war” film in particular I went into this film with hardly any expectations. My mind was open to experience something which I hoped would educate me and impress. Wow, I certainly came out with a completely different mindset on what a good “war” film can bring to the table. There are differences between the big Hollywood blockbusters that glorify the subject; they usually show no real substance. When it comes to the British creating this kind of story we tend to be more real, gritty and raw and really concentrate on telling the story. This is exactly what we have here in ’71, it’s really quite refreshing.
RELEASED IN CINEMAS 10TH OCTOBER.