Behind the cryptic title ’71 hides an intense and captivating drama with a lot of action. The title refers to the year of our lord 1971, one of the most bloody ones of The Troubles, a conflict in Northern Ireland that went on for almost thirty years. The question that divided them was should Northern Ireland join United Ireland or remain a part of United Kingdom. It also has some religious motives, although they are not the driving force of the conflict. This movie follows one soldier who finds himself deep behind enemy lines, trying to escape to safety. Right from the start there’s this tension you can feel in the air. Mostly because you simply know things are going to go wrong with the only question remaining just how fucking wrong. It’s unpredictable and suspenseful, with a lot of twists and engaging scenes.
’71 shows all the absurdity and corruption that surrounds any kind of conflict or war. Eamon, played by Richard Dormer said something that stayed with me long after I’ve seen the movie. Moreover, it encapsulates how I feel about the whole thing in a very poignant and simplistic way.
I was in the army myself… medic… 20 years… posh cunts… telling thick cunts… to kill poor cunts… that’s the army for you. It’s all a lie… they don’t care about you… you’re just a piece of meat to them… piece of meat. Get yourself some rest son…Eamon – ’71
So far we’ve covered only urban tales of caught behind enemy lines. Movies like Shorta and End of Watch show cops who similarly find themselves in wrong neighborhoods. While Judgment Night and Trespass do the same but with ordinary people. I avoided the army theme, for obvious reasons, but it would seem that there are some great movies here.
It’s the early seventies in the United Kingdom and young soldier Gary Hook just finished his training. He immediately gets sent to the thick of it, to Belfast, a city divided between republicans and loyalists. There, during one of the many house searches, he gets separated from the rest of his unit. Now in effectively enemy territory, pursued by men who want to kill him, he must hide and think fast.
While the focus of the movie remains firmly on private Hook, we will meet a lot of different and well-developed characters along the way. They will also paint a much clearer picture of this troubled city and the war itself. From undercover agents to war-hardened boys, each and every of them will feel realistic and authentic. And while I think I will never get over Jack O’Connell’s performance in Eden Lake, he was phenomenal here. I’m also sure you’ll recognize a couple more excellent performances, most notably from Sean Harris and Paul Anderson. However, performances are not the only thing that will catch your eye here. Sets are also simply amazing and very believable. With bleak and washed-out colors depicting the grimy feeling of a war-torn city, this is a visually stunning movie. The runtime is just ninety minutes, so just dive right in this nail-biting thriller.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like ’71 check out Anthropoid, Valkyrie, and The Siege of Jadotville.
Director: Yann Demange
Writer: Gregory Burke
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Jack Lowden, Sam Reid, Sean Harris, Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer, Charlie Murphy
Fun Facts: Gary Hook was originally intended to be from Lancashire. At Jack O’Connell’s request, the script was rewritten so the character came from his birthplace of Derby, Derbyshire.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2614684/