REVIEW: ’71

22 07 2015

'71As someone relatively unfamiliar with the conflicts that ripped Ireland apart, I always find it a little confusing trying to keep track of all the various factions, rivalries, and competitions in any cinematic representation of the fracas.  (Surely any nuanced portrayal of the wedges that led to the American Civil War might baffle foreigners as well.)  “’71,” as exciting as it might be, proved no exception.

Writer Gregory Burke does not much give much of a learning curve or vast simplification of history – plus, it’s not like you can easily discern a Protestant or a Catholic from any physical characteristics.  Like the film’s lead character, Jack O’Connell’s British peacekeeper Gary Hook, we are just plunged directly into the bitterly divided Belfast streets.  Amidst a botched operation, Hook gets separated from the rest of his unit and must navigate his way back through some rather hostile territory.

The adventure involves a complex array of people and parties trying to help and harm Hook.  While keeping track of the minutiae are a little challenging, director Yann Demange ensures the macro level tension is always exciting and intelligible.  Chief among his smart moves, he employs a pulse-pounding heartbeat of a score that keeps “’71” relentlessly tense.  The film makes for a quite thrilling and entertaining watch, though if it aimed for any kind of deeper commentary … well, it was probably lost on me.  B / 2halfstars

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