This exciting and incredibly dynamic action thriller takes us to the streets of Belfast in 1971. Although the story of a British soldier who broke away from his unit during a riot in the Catholic part of the Northern Ireland capital and tries to keep his head alive overnight is fictional, the historical circumstances in the film that directed Yann Demange’s directorial debut are very real. The year 1971 was certainly not chosen by screenwriter Gregory Burke by chance, because the civil war between Republicans and Catholics on the one hand and royalists and Protestants on the other was nearing its peak. Belfast was indeed a real battlefield at the time, and Catholics and Protestants practically live among themselves. Young British soldier Gary Hook will also arrive there with his unit (Jack O’Connell, for whom this was a performance with “Starred Up” in which he announced great potential, but which he has not yet confirmed).
Led by an inexperienced commander, his squad will embark on its first task and will support Northern Irish police in searching houses looking for firearms from prominent Republicans. Even before the situation escalates, Hook will remain shocked by the violence by the military and police against civilians, but will not have much time to react as he will chase after the boy who somehow managed to steal an automatic rifle. Very soon Gary will turn from a hunter into a prey and in all this chaos the army will forget about him and he will remain behind enemy lines (conditionally speaking). In unfamiliar terrain, among people who are particularly intolerant of British soldiers and who want to kill him. And “71” is not one of those typical dramas that were usually filmed about the Civil War in Northern Ireland and that sought to primarily politically contextualize the situation.
This is a full-blooded action thriller, and Burke and Demange brilliantly portrayed circumstances in which it is difficult to trust anyone and assess who is an ally and who is an enemy. Everything here is terribly murky because we will realize that almost everyone has some plans of their own. So young and militant IRA members Haggrerty (Martin McCann) and Quinn (Killian Scott) with the help of teenager Sean (Barry Keoghan) work on the head of their commander Boyle (David Wilmot). He, in turn, is in cahoots with British intelligence officer Browning (Sean Harris), and the only chance for Gary to survive could be former military doctor and Republican Eamon (Richard Dormer). Excellent film made in Blackburn, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool managed to recreate the Belfast war zone from the early seventies and “71” is an extremely exciting film that also shows very well all the nonsense of the civil war that lasted for decades. Rating 8/10.
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