Friday, September 15, 2017
Directed by Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke, ’71 is the story of a British soldier who finds himself separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the tumultuous period known as the Troubles. The film is a look into the real-life conflict that began in the late 1960s between Britain and IRA as a young man finds himself in the middle of this conflict which was at its most dangerous in 1971. Starring Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, David Wilmot, Richard Dormer, Paul Anderson, and Charlie Murphy. ’71 is a gripping and intense film from Yann Demange.
The film follows a young soldier who is tasked with other young soldiers to control a situation in Belfast where it turned into a riot as he finds himself all alone when his unit had fled and IRA soldiers trying to find and kill him. It’s a film that explore what happens to a young man who goes head-on into the turmoil between the British and the Irish where the original plan from the former is to help officials arrest those suspected of being involved in the IRA. What happens becomes very chaotic as this young man finds himself lost after seeing a fellow soldier shot in the head who was trying to save him as he goes on the run and hide from the IRA. Gregory Burke’s screenplay explores the plight that this young soldier in Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is dealing with as he has to hide while befriending a few locals along the way. Yet, just as he thinks he has found some form of safety. Something bad happens immediately as he has to keep on running and survive while his unit deal with having to find him in Belfast knowing there’s trouble as they’re also dealing with undercover officers who pretend to be IRA soldiers.
Yann Demange’s direction is definitely very intense as it has this sense of immediacy once the event in Belfast come into play. Shot on mainly in Britain, the film doesn’t start off with this air of combat but rather soldiers involved in a boxing match of sorts between soldiers who are in training. Once they’re assigned to Belfast to aid British police officials in arresting suspects, the film has this sense of unease as Hook would visit his younger brother before he goes to Belfast as a reminder that he’s just a young man. Once he’s in Belfast on assignment with his unit that is led by a young lieutenant and a corporal who are there to smooth things and not get into trouble. Chaos ensues as Demange’s direction become intense and immediate with its usage of hand-held cameras for the close-ups and medium shots while the violence is unexpected and unsettling. Especially in the moment where Hook is being beaten by locals as he is trying to be saved by another young soldier only for that man to be shot in the head.
While there are some wide shots, Demange would prefer to maintain that air of intimacy into what Hook is going through as Demange’s close-ups help play into his fear. There are moments in the film that are intense as well as in the suspense as it also show what some of these men in the IRA are up to as some are for a cause with some having their own personal motives. Even the men working undercover have this air of ambiguity as the British lieutenant isn’t sure if he could trust them. The film’s climax is about the rescue for Hook who is also has to fend for himself and protect those who were able to help him despite their cultural and social differences. All of which would play into this conflict that had brought a lot of pain where this young man ponders his role in this conflict. Overall, Demange crafts a visceral and harrowing film about a young British soldier and his encounter with war in 1971 Belfast.
Cinematographer Tat Radcliffe does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key and natural lighting for the scenes in the daytime as well as elements of sepia and lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Chris Wyatt does amazing work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts play into the suspense as well as the action that goes on throughout the film. Production designer Chris Oddy, with set decorator Kate Guyan and supervising art director Nigel Pollock, does fantastic work with the look of the home base of the British unit as well as the pub and houses in Belfast. Costume designer Jane Petrie does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual from the look of the locals in the style of the clothes of the early 70s as well as the uniforms of the British soldiers.
Makeup designer Emma Scott does fantastic work with the makeup from the look of Hook with the blood and bruises that he would suffer throughout his body. Visual effects supervisor Simon Hughes does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects for one key sequence in the film as well as a few set dressing for some wide shots of Belfast at night. Sound designer Paul Davies does superb work with the sound that play into the chaos of the riots as well as some of the violent conflict in the film as it has this array of mixes to play into Hook’s perspective as he would encounter all sorts of violence. The film’s music by David Holmes is incredible for its mixture of low-key synthesizers, guitars, and bombastic beats to play into the suspense and sense of terror while music supervisor Dan Rodgers does wonderful work with the soundtrack as it feature some music of the times from Wanda Jackson, Arthur Alexander, Solomon Burke, Lee Hazelwood, Jack Scott, and Butch Moore plus an electronic cut from Aphex Twin.
The casting by Jina Jay is great as it feature some notable small roles from Paul Popplewell as a training corporal, Corey McKinley as an Irish child who is a loyal to the IRA that helps Hook, Harry Verity as Hook’s younger brother Darren, Babou Ceesay as the unit’s corporal, Paul Anderson as an undercover officer in Sgt. Lewis, Barry Keoghan as a teenage member of the IRA in Sean, and Sam Reid in a terrific role as a sympathetic British lieutenant who is trying to ensure the well-being of Hook and other soldiers while questioning the methods of the undercover officers. Killian Scott is superb as an IRA leader in James Quinn who is eager to find Hook and kill for the cause while David Wilmot is fantastic as the senior IRA leader Boyle who goes to the British in dealing with the crazed Quinn.
Richard Dormer and Charlie Murphy are excellent in their respective roles as the father-daughter duo Eamon and Birgid as two people who help the wounded Hook with Murphy as the conflicted woman who had been part of the riot while Dormer is the more understandable man who knows what Hook has to do. Sean Harris is brilliant as Captain Sandy Browning as an undercover officer who is trying to do everything to stop the IRA as he has some very brutal tactics and ideas that make some who are working for him uneasy. Finally, there’s Jack O’Connell in a remarkable performance as Gary Hook as a new recruit for the British army who endures a terrifying experience as he tries to survive as well as deal with the reality of the conflict he’s involved in forcing him to fight for himself as well as face the truth on the war he’s in.
’71 is a phenomenal film from Yann Demange that features an incredible performance from Jack O’Connell. Along with its ensemble cast, gripping action, and a look into the period known from the Troubles from both sides, it’s a film that is intense as well as being very engaging into what was happening in these turbulent times. In the end, ’71 is a spectacular film from Yann Demange.
© thevoid99 2017