A young soldier is stranded on the streets of Belfast in 1971. With danger around every corner, Private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is looking for a way back to his barracks after being left behind after a street riot. He gets stuck in a war between both sides of the political and social coin as pressure brews in this melting pot of tension.
First-time director Yann Demange makes a startlingly impressive debut in this amazing drama. He gives this film a wonderfully washed-out vibe akin to classic British drama from the era and creates something that grips you in tension from the first minute to the last.
Jack O’Connell is a captivating lead in this taut front-line thriller and really makes a case for him being that next breakthrough star. He has really impressed critics and audiences alike and has shown real signs of maturity in his approach (especially after his star-making turn in Starred Up). O’Connell is a revelation here, and keeps you invested thanks to his powerful portrayal of Private Hook.
Stellar support comes in the form of perennial bad-guy Sean Harris, Sam Reid and Paul Anderson with Barry Keoghan doing well as a particularly vicious idealist. But perhaps the films most striking trait is its ability to look like a film made in the 70s. This is a gritty drama that recollects gems like The Sweeney and The Professionals in its style of filmmaking. The attention to detail is wonderful and marks ’71 as a truly accurate account of the era.
With palpable tension throughout, the film is a heady mix of uneasiness and angst. ’71 is a quite brilliant drama that holds your attention and never lets you go. With Jack O’Connell on fine form and a collective cast of solid support, ’71 is a wonderful throwback to classic thrillers and shines a telling light onto a conflict that hasn’t had a lot of cinematic coverage over the years. Demange has crafted a great movie that will stay with you for quite some time.