DIRECTOR: Yann Demange
May contain spoilers!
Films affect people in different ways. Horror films generally leave me cold, hence why I am not an huge fan of the genre as a whole. I seem to be able to separate myself from the events on the screen and therefore I have a difficult time being drawn into the narrative or action, leaving me impervious to the chills of horror which unfolds before me.
But this film was head for me to watch and left me feeling uneasy throughout.
’71, has a bleak urban war zone feel and being from the U.K. and growing up around the ‘Irish Troubles’, though not in Ireland itself, this film draws on more tangible fears. This film is set just 44 years ago, with streets not too dissimilar from those which I grew up in or around in northern England, which is actually where this was filmed, though luckily for me, England was suffering through such hard times, with the troubles general reserved for Northern Ireland.
But, this film demonstrates so effectively the truth behind what has gone on and what in many ways, still be happening in the Ireland, even after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement supposedly put and end to the conflict. But you can not just draw a line under such a personal sectarian war, one which has effected so many people who are still alive and remember.
But 1971 was a time where the conflict was building to its peak, where urban streets were at war with each other as well as the British Army, an image which seems so alien now yet was on our TV screens almost every night throughout the 70’s, 80’s & 1990’s. Let alone the bombing campaigns both in Ireland and the British mainland.
But whilst this film is based on the events of the time, it is not a true story as such, as we follow Jack O’Connell’s Private Hook as he is separated from his company during a street skirmish. We follow him on a tour of troubled Belfast throughout the night as he is pursued by the IRA and the undercover wing of his own army who play both sides off against each other.
We meet hard line IRA, Unionists and sympathetic Loyalists and Hook must struggle to survive the night amidst the ever growing chaos of the unfolding and ceaseless conflict.
’71 is the most disturbing film that I seen in a long time, so close to the bone, engrossing and familiar that it plays out as much as a gangster thriller as it does an urban war film. And in many ways, that what the conflict was. It was personal, domestic and beyond the simplistic overriding issues of who ran Northern Ireland.
All the factions had an agenda and the likes of Private Hook were simple pawns within them. The film also makes little to effort to wrap everything up neatly, understanding that this conflict was far from neat and tidy and that the it was destined to continue for decades to come.
Tense, bleak and in many ways, horrific, ’71 is the best interpretation that I have seen on the horrors of the this conflict, for the most part being true to the nature of war, hate and futility of the whole thing, not just in Northern Ireland but war in general.
The performances where first rate almost across the board and the tone of the film, along with its direction are equally as stunning. A tough watch but one which will not leave you.