Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
“Bomb-torn Belfast in 1971 must have been like nowhere else on Earth – more like a rubble-strewn circle of hell. This is the apocalyptic vision laid out in Yann Demange’s stunningly well-crafted survival thriller, ’71. The film’s stark realism and bruising impact are enough in themselves, but the risk, and the real artistic payoff, is its bold sensory plunge into this Hadean inferno. Jack O’Connell [Starred Up] stars as Gary Hook, a young squaddie fresh out of training school, whose unit is dispatched to help with peacekeeping in the Northern Irish capital, amid the rising tensions of that fatefully violent year.
These unprepared rookies have barely taken to the streets before rioting breaks out, and Gary finds himself cut adrift from his companions. As night closes in, he has no idea how to get back to his barracks, and must throw himself on the mercy of loyalist allies who are no certain guarantees of sanctuary… Gary is by no means the kind of trigger-happy meathead you might expect to find as an extra in Paul Greengrass’s much more politically incendiary Bloody Sunday. Instead, he’s green, terrified, out of his depth. O’Connell’s performance in this near-wordless role hardly strikes a false note: he’s excellent as usual.
You expect the film to make a lunge for balance at some point, but the wrinkles in its plotting arrive at offhandedly shocking moments, and it’s remarkable how well the script, by Scottish playwright Gregory Burke (Black Watch), manages to weave a nexus of competing agendas without indulging in heavy-weather exposition at any point.” — Tim Robey, The Telegraph