4 April 2015 | paul-allaer
"The situation is confused"
"71" (2014 release from the UK; 100 min.) brings the story of Gary Hook, a British soldier. As the movie opens, we see Gary training with the rest of his platoon. It isn't long before they are informed that they are being sent to deal with "a deteriorating situation in Belfast". Before shipping out, Gary spends some quality time with his son. Upon arriving in Belfast, it isn't long before the platoon is sent out in the streets of Belfast. Due to a blunder by the platoon's lieutenant, soon they find themselves in the midst of a street riot, and they retread. In all of the confusion, Hook is left behind and he runs for his life, being chased by several Catholics bent on killing him. At this point we are 15-20 min. into the movie. Will Hook make it out alive? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: this is the feature debut from French director Yann Demange, and what a remarkable debut it is. "71" is both a top notch political movie and action thriller. How many movies can make that claim? The tension that builds up in the street riots is incredible, and remain palpable later on. Once Hook escapes the first immediate danger, he catches his breath, and only then realizes the horrible position that he finds himself in, and every choice he makes from here on out can be the wrong one. As to the political side, things are not clearly black and white, and in fact the comment is made several times in the movie that "the situation is confused" and we can't always tell who the "good" guys and the "bad" guys are. I suspect that this is an accurate reflection of how things were like back then in Northern Ireland. The cast is, for me anyway, a cast of unknowns. Jack O'Connell as Hook brings an incredible performance. Last but not least, there is an outstanding score for this movie, courtesy of David Holmes (best known for his scores from the Ocean's 11-12-13 series).
The movie opened finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The early evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay. Even though I had high expectations going in, they were met, and then some. In fact, the only negative point I will mention is that at times I had trouble understanding all the lives, due to the (fake or real, I'm not sure) Northern Irish accents. Bottom line: if you are in the mood for a top notch quality political and action drama, you cannot go wrong with this. "71" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!