’71 Movie Mini-Review (No Spoilers)
’71 is the feature film debut of director Yann Demange. There aren’t any big names attached to this project, but I was eager to see this movie anyway based on the good reviews and the excellent trailer. ’71 is in reference to the year 1971 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. My readers who know their history will probably recognize this time period as the worst of the conflict between the Catholic IRA and the Protestant British loyalists. My knowledge of this conflict is cursory, at best, so I am unable to comment on the historical accuracy of this movie. I can comment, however, on the craftsmanship of the film. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it.
In general, ’71 is a near-great thriller. The story and the pacing are both very tight. I saw one reviewer comment that there’s no fat on this movie. I agree. Not a minute is wasted; every single shot and scene serves a purpose. The director is able to quickly set the stage with a few visual cues and familiar scenarios, and then plunge you straight to hell. The viewer is immersed in this world, even if he has never been to Ireland and even if he wasn’t alive in 1971. (Both apply to me.)
The plot: Gary Hooks is a young recruit to the British army. His unit is called in to Belfast to help quell the riots, and he is left behind when one of his unit’s missions goes sour. He finds himself lost in a hostile urban environment in which both sides want him dead. Awesome premise, right?
The action is very tense, and the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat for almost the entire running time. The incident that sparks the chain of events is especially tense. You know what’s coming but you’re hoping for the best anyway.
The violence throughout the movie is very realistic and therefore very frightening and disturbing. (Spoiler: Highlight to read)The bomb that claims the life of the small child is particularly heartbreaking. Though neither Hooks nor the viewer knows this kid very well, it’s always horrible to see a child murdered, especially in such a gruesome fashion. There is also a very poignant scene in which Hooks is forced to stab one of his pursuers to death. The hunter/victim holds him as he dies. You can’t help but think that these two very young men might be friends in another situation.(End spoiler.) There is a lot more violence in the last movie I reviewed, but this one feels more violent as it is more gory and realistic.The over-the-top violence in Kingsman is cartoonish and played for laughs and for fun. In ’71, the violence is horrifying and graphic. The terror of the situation is palpable.
The movie has a very strong anti-military message. One of the characters comments that the army doesn’t care about the soldiers; they are just expendable pieces of meat. This has always been true in history, and this aspect makes the movie timeless though it is set in a very specific period in a very specific place. I couldn’t help but think about the way US veterans are treated. I hope a lot of young men and women all over the world will see this movie so they can get a glimpse of the horrors of war and the way in which soldiers are treated by their governments and by their superiors. It’s a direct contrast to the sexy propaganda the recruiters sell them. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but staying out of the military was not one of them.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie and can heartily recommend it. However, I do have two main gripes.
First (and I won’t spoil the ending), I had a problem with the actions of one of the loyalist characters in the last 10 minutes of the film. I understand that the writer and director were trying to show that the lines between the sides are blurry, but his actions didn’t make sense in the context of the scene and what the loyalist army was trying to accomplish. If you’ve seen the movie, here’s my issue: (Spoiler: Highlight to read it). Why didn’t the loyalist just let Sean (the young boy from the IRA) shoot Hook? If he was afraid that Hook would speak up about the bomb, he could’ve just let Sean silence him. Problem solved. (End spoiler.)
Second, I had a little bit of trouble with the Irish accents so I missed out on some of the dialogue. The young boy’s accent was particularly thick. Perhaps I missed something that would clear up my issue with the ending of the film. I think I caught 99% of it, though.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a tight, fast paced thriller, check out ’71. Just be prepared for some disturbing sequences. It’s a realistic war movie, after all, and war is hell.
Story: ★★★ of 5
Action: ★★★★★ of 5
Drama: ★★★★★ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★★★ of 5
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