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'71 - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

HAVING shone in gritty prison drama Starred Up, Jack O’Connell now delivers another powerhouse performance in ‘71, a survival thriller with the brains to match it’s braun.

Directed by Yann Demange from a screenplay by Gregory Burke, the film may be set around a former conflict but it resonates on many levels, especially in light of current conflicts and attitudes towards policing them.

The story focuses on Gary Hook (played by O’Connell), a young soldier newly deployed to Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of The Troubles. After becoming involved in a mini-uprising, however, Gary is separated from his unit and forced to rely on his wits in order to survive the hostile IRA streets he now finds himself trapped in.

Yet as Gary soon discovers, it’s not just the IRA he needs to worry about as vested interests and differing sympathies make for a much more complex situation where knowing who to trust is paramount.

Early on, Demange’s film may operate as a pulse-pounding chase thriller in which the action and camera-work rival the intensity and authenticity of Kathryn Bigelow’s benchmark-setting Point Break. It is gasp-inducing, exhilarating and supremely tense.

But once the film settles down and the politics come into play, there’s a grim fascination in seeing how things play out and where Burke’s screenplay weaves a morally and ethically complex path towards its satisfying conclusion.

What’s more, ‘71 is an unflinching film that refuses to pull its punches emotionally or in terms of the carnage it delivers. This merely heightens the sense of uncertainty and dread permeating throughout.

O’Connell is outstanding in the central role, combining a fierce survival instinct with fear, paranoia, naivety and anger. But his supporting cast are equally strong with Sean Harris, Paul Anderson and Sam Reid particularly standing out, as well as Charlie Murphy.

‘71 grips and provokes in equal measure, delivering an intense, intelligent experience that is both unsentimental in attitude and highly relevant. It shouldn’t be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 99mins
UK Release Date: October 10, 2014