’71 (Yann Demange, 2014)

Screened as part of the First Feature competition at the London Film Festival, Yann Demange’s ’71 is an accomplished action thriller that serves as yet another reminder of the supreme talents of Jack O’Connell.

Set during The Troubles in 1971, the story follows Derbyshire soldier Gary Hook (O’Connell) who has been sent on his first mission with the Armed Forces to Belfast. His first call out, to quell some disturbances in a housing estate dubbed as “the front line” near the Falls Road, goes wrong fairly quickly and he is thrust into a man-in-hiding situation, on the run from the locals who believe the British Armed Forces have no place in their conflict. In danger and in isolation, the story becomes an cross-analysis of one man desperate to survive and return to his base safely.

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What I found interesting was how similar this plays out to other recent films set in more modern wars. One that immediately springs to mind is the Mark Wahlberg-starring Lone Survivor, which was set in Afghanistan. Of course the two films are as far apart as you could get in terms of style, but it serves as a reminder of how extreme the conflicts had got in the early 1970s.

Despite his frequenting of the tabloids, Jack O’Connell keeps on proving himself to be an actor with plenty of natural talent and it’s fantastic to see him building on his excellent performance in last year’s Starred Up (also reviewed here).

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There are moments of real tensions and shock along the way. I think it would be unfair of me to discuss them in great detail as I might ruin a great film that needs to be seen first-hand.

With a fantastic support cast (Sean Harris stands out as Captain Sandy Browning), this is a solid film worthy of your attention. Seek it out.

’71 is released in cinemas across the UK on 10th October.

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