Classic Review: ’71 (2014)

By: Daniel Chadwick-Shubat

In October of 2014 I ventured to the cinema in the UK (I was there on an exchange program). ’71 was a movie I had been following closely for months for two reasons. One it had one of the hottest new young actors in it in the form of Jack O’Connell. Secondly it was about a topic close to my heart, the travesties that happened during the reign of the IRA.

I was incredibly happy when I returned to Canada and saw this movie get a limited release here. This is a movie that needs to be watched. It’s full of action, drama and moments that make you grip the arm rests of your seat. This movie is based on the true story of a British Army soldier getting stuck deep in enemy territory and having to survive a night in the dangerous streets of Belfast. This film deeply analyzes the many different shades of grey that civil war brings and how even the “good guys” can get caught doing some bad stuff.

’71 starts and ends for me with the brilliant performances by the cast and crew. While technically not brilliant, it’s beautifully shot and brutally brilliant by director Yann Demange. It shows the horrors of war and the hardships British soldiers had to face when going into Northern Ireland while at the same time showing the blackness of certain parts of the British army. Jack O’Connell was absolutely astonishing as Gary Hook and showed emotion and intensity that you don’t see very often in a young, relatively inexperienced actor. A certain attachment to his relationship with his son keep your eyes glued to the screen, unaware to the people around you and the popcorn and drink beside you. I’m a teenager so there aren’t many times when I can honestly say that I forgot about food and this was one of those times.

Hook is involved in a battle of wits between the IRA and the English Army. Some want him rescued, but most want him dead. Some have political reasons, some have ideological reasons, and some have a mixture of the two. ‘71 knows it is a better war and suspense movie than it is a political drama, and finds its balance. O’Connell plays brilliantly off the plot and somehow is able to hold his own in a tour-de-force thriller.

In my mind though the main attraction was the supporting actors that surrounded Jack O’Connell. While all relatively unknown to the general public, they are fantastic actors who have a lot to offer. First we start off with Sam Reid as the inexperienced leader of the platoon Lt. Armitage. He plays it convincingly and even hold his own against the much more knowledgeable Gary (Jack O’Connell). His almost child like innocence is shown as a positive thing throughout the movie and Yann Demange gets his character spot on. Finally though my favorite of the bunch is the very brutal and honest actor Paul Anderson (plays Arthur on the amazing BBC production Peaky Blinders). He gives a performance worth remembering as Sergeant Leslie Lewis and honestly amazes me at the range of his acting.

’71 was certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at 97%. It is a film that has not been heard much about in the general public. It’s these types of movies that I want to bring to your attention not just for you entertainment but also because it’s a movie that makes you think. So instead of watching another Hollywood blockbuster why not try your hand at a thought provoking, unequivocally entertaining movie that will have you sitting there in amazement at the art of film making.

Rating: 9.5/10

What did you think of this IRA drama? Let us know in the comments below…

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