A movie review of “ ’71”: Yann Demange’s tough, well-made thriller follows a British soldier (Jack O’Connell) left behind in Belfast in the early 1970s. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Not to be confused with the new American documentary about the FBI, “1971,” the compelling British drama “ ’71” takes place in 1971 in Belfast, where a green British soldier has been left behind by his unit. He’s also forced to spend the night, following a riot and a bomb explosion.
Played by Jack O’Connell, the star of Angelina Jolie’s surprise box-office hit “Unbroken,” Gary Hook is unprepared for the ordeal he faces when he finds himself dealing with the “other” side.
Early in the film, we’re told that Catholic areas of Northern Ireland are “hostile” and Protestant areas are “friendly.” No other justification is offered, and none is really required.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘ ’71,’ with Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, Sam Reid. Directed by Yann Demange, from a screenplay by Gregory Burke. 99 minutes. Rated R for language, violence, disturbing images. Guild 45th, Meridian.
This isn’t a story about religious differences. It’s a thriller — gripping, almost abstract and carefully assembled by filmmakers who appear to know more about creating tension than explaining it. Directed by television director Yann Demange, the result is a true edge-of-your-seat experience.
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Although the resourceful O’Connell remains at the center of it, “ ’71” is not a star vehicle but an unusually strong ensemble piece. Even the extras in the maniacal riot scenes suggest thought-out choices rather than Central Casting.
The film carries an R rating, partly for its “disturbing images,” which include makeshift surgery up close and grittily personal. It’s not for the squeamish. Or even — at times — the not-so-squeamish.