You’re stuck behind enemy lines after a confused riot situation turned awry. People are trying to murder you. Others are trying to help you. What do you do,and whom do you trust?
Yann Demange’s “’71” is a heart-pounding action thriller that follows a young British soldier who is accidently separated from his platoon in Belfast during the peak of the United Kingdom’s “Troubles.”
As the soldiers aid an important house raid in Belfast, the people in that area alert their fellow townsmen by simultaneously hitting a trash can lid against the ground. This gives the scene an eerie foreshadowing before our main character, Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), is commanded to chase after a child who steals one of their unit’s rifles.
While he pursues the child, the rapidly growing crowd begins to turn into a riot. They begin throwing rocks at the unit, and one of them knocks a soldier unconscious. In a panic, the soldiers are told to retreat back to their truck. Meanwhile Gary and another soldier who was helping him have been stopped by a group of people who are beating the life out of them.
After these soldiers are left behind, one woman stands up for them and tells everyone to stop beating them since the soldiers left. As she speaks these words, a man with the Irish Republican Army pulls out a gun and shoots Gary’s partner in the face.
So what does Gary do then? He does what anyone else would – run for your life. The chase scene that ensues immediately after sets the course for the rest of the film with an intense sequence that makes you check your pulse every three minutes to see if you’re still breathing. This becomes a repeated occurrence too.
This film is executed phenomenally in terms of cinematography during every scene, but the most impressively shot scenes are during each chase. In order to capture each scene to its fullest potential, first time film director Yann Demange had to find the perfect setting to shoot his attention-grabbing piece of art. Let’s just say that the setting of each scene was flawlessly scouted out. Especially when Gary is pursued in an outdoor apartment complex.
To put it in light-hearted terms, Gary is placed in the most intense, life-dangling game of hide and seek. The opening image shows Gary in basic training as he boxes a fellow soldier. We immediately are given the sense that this character is a fighter and does not give up easily. These elements prove truthfull throughout as we see Gary’s persistence to survive the night.
One problem with the film was the lack of explanation for the tension that was going on in the United Kingdom at the time, but that’s not what the movie was about per se. This film is about survival and persistence to finding safety.
Also, I wish subtitles were available as some of the actors’ accents were genuinely thick and difficult to understand at times. That could just be the American in me shouting, “Help, what the hell are they saying?”
Other than that, there is not much to complain about in this picture. The directing was perhaps my favorite detail to pay attention to. Every scene is masterly crafted by Demange to help evoke the viewer’s emotion. Every action he tells his actors to perform was conducted very naturally and subtly.
Jack O’Connell, who recently starred in Angelina Jolie’s adaption of “Unbroken,” proves that a character without much dialogue in a film can still be performed at a high caliber with just raw emotion and reactions.
After he breaks away from his pursuer in the beginning, he finds a bathroom to hide out in temporarily. When Gary knows he’s lost his followers, Demange lets the camera stay on him in the cramped cell as he simply breaks down in tears for a good minute or two. This lets the viewer breathe for a moment too. Absolutely brilliant directing if you ask me.
I had to drive a decent distance to go see this film, but it was undeniably worth it. Go see this film if you can – you won’t be disappointed.
Published March 11, 2015