Synopsis: A young British soldier (Jack O’Connell) is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.
Release Date: March 13, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Drama
Last year, Jack O’Connell portraying an American prisoner of war was one of the bright spots in the mostly disappointing Unbroken. In ’71, the young actor gets to show off his range; this time, he plays a member of the British Army who is trapped in enemy territory.
O’Connell stars in ’71 as Private Gary Hook, a British soldier whose unit is assigned to keep peace in Belfast, Ireland during an uprising between the Catholics and the Protestants. As soon as the platoon hits the streets they are confronted by an angry mob and pelted with rocks and urine-filled water balloons. Hooks gets separated from his unit in the confusion and is accidentally left behind. Once they realize that he is missing, the Army comes looking for him, but they are forced to work with the Irish police who seem to have their own motives and reasons for finding the lost soldier. Hooks spends the night running and hiding from rioters and protestors, meeting people along the way but never being sure if he can trust them or not.
Directed by Yann Demange, a veteran of British television shows like “Top Boy” and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”, ’71 is not a typical war movie. Sure, it takes place in a war zone, it’s brutally violent, and the central character is a soldier, but it’s more of a wrong-place-wrong-time kind of a movie. Hook is running for his life from seemingly everyone, and his paranoia is contagious; the audience is just as unsure as Hook is as to who he can trust, and the film is full of twists, turns, and surprises that only add to the tension and suspense. All in all, ’71 shows the audience a chronicle of the worst night in one soldier’s life, and it’s an incredibly compelling journey.
Screenwriter Gregory Burke (One Night in Emergency) sets ’71 in the context of a real event – a 30 year period of Irish history known as “The Troubles.” Although it looks as if Burke has packed a lot of fact into the film, there also appears to be a lot of conjecture, and that seems to be a bone of contention amongst historical purists. Despite what people may think, ’71 is a movie, and a very good one at that. Viewers should go into ’71 for the entertainment value and not for a history lesson. When it comes to action and drama, ’71 does not disappoint.
The way that cinematographer Tat Radcliffe (Pride) approaches the photography for ’71 is fascinating. The film has all of the rough edges and gritty visuals of a war movie, bringing the viewer into the streets of Ireland with Private Hook, yet also has the dark and desperate qualities of a suspenseful horror movie. Most of the shots are long one-takes, done with handheld cameras or Steadicams, giving the movie a brutally realistic look. The story takes place primarily at night, and Radcliffe pays close attention to light sources, ensuring that the film is purposefully dark but illuminated authentically by directional light coming from out-of-control fires or strategically placed streetlights. The photography gives the film a feeling of barely controlled chaos, a feeling which is effectively echoed by Private Hook throughout the night. The lo-fi approach to cinematography works wonders for the story, giving ’71 a different look and feel from the slicker war films (such as O’Connell’s other recent movie, Unbroken).
Audio-wise, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in ’71. Sound designer Paul Davies (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Closed Circuit) carefully builds an urban soundscape, layering the sounds of clamoring crowds and shouting voices into the background ambient noise of the film, punctuating the sound bed every so often with a sudden gunshot or a loud explosion. Like the cinematography, there is a lo-fi style to the audio, but it never sounds unprofessional; the viewer has more trouble deciphering the dialogue through the heavy Irish accents of the actors than they do because of a questionable audio mix. The overall sonic effect is that of a violent riot, one through which Private Hook must make his way to safety.or due trying. A tasteful and subdued musical score by David Holmes (the Ocean’s Eleven movies) adds to the suspense and tension with its atonal horns and dramatic strings. Working together, the sound and music help set the scene nicely for the action that takes place over the course of the night in ’71.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Yann Demange
- Producer(s): Robin GutchAngus Lamont
- Screenwriter(s): Gregory Burke
- Cast: Jack O’ConnellSam ReidRichard Dormer Paul AndersonSean HarrisKillian ScottDavid WilmotBarry KeoghanCharlie Murphy
- Editor(s): Chris Wyatt
- Cinematographer: Tat Radcliffe
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Jan Petrie
- Casting Director(s): Jina Jay
- Music Score: David Holmes
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: United Kingdom