Movie Review : ’71


Director : Yann Demange
Screenwriter : Gregory Burke
Genre : Action, Drama, Thriller
Cast  : Jack O’Connell, Paul Anderson, Sean Harris, Sam Reid, David Wilmot, Richard Dormer,Charlie Murphy, Killian Scott
Release Date : November 20, 2014
Run time      : 99 minutes
Synopsis : A young British soldier 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.
UAE Rating : 15+
Trailer : ‘71   
IMDB Link   : ‘71 


To tell you the truth I’m not much into war movies. It just breaks my heart to see so many people getting killed because of the political reasons. I know this actually happens in reality but still it’s distressing to see so many people losing their loved ones to war. Ever since I lost my dad, I stay clear of any movie which might seem like a tear-jerker.

When I was given a chance to watch ’71 I was unsure at first. I’ve read that it was a war movie that means innumerable deaths.

But I thought what the heck; I eventually have to accept things as they are.

Moreover, every critic everywhere seems to have only good things to say about it.

In truth, I’ve never heard about THE TROUBLES aka Northern Ireland conflict.

So with high expectations, I went ahead to see it. So many critics were praising this movie; it had to be good, right?

Mmm somewhat…

First of all, this isn’t a war movie.

The movie is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the year 1971, the blackest and one of the worst years of The Troubles.

The British Army was deployed to restore order and state control in Belfast.

This movie is about one such young soldier in British army, dispatched to Belfast as the situation there was turning into mayhem.

1-0006_7C6A1021Jack O’Connell as Private Gary Hook

1-0008_7C6A9221Private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), a quiet lad, had expected to serve in Germany when suddenly his regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Armitage (Sam Reid), was shipped out to Northern Ireland to assist the civilian police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary, as they were then called) to restore order and placate the public on the riot-strewn streets of Belfast in 1971.

He had barely been there a day, when his regiment was sent to control the residents while the police bossily conducted house-to-house search.

1-0007_7C6A3467Private Gary Hook during the search 

Fresh out of basic training, it was all new for Private Hook. He could see the hatred and loathing for British in the eyes of the residents.

1-0013_7C7A3483Soldiers restraining the public during the search

One kid makes off with a rifle and Hook along with his fellow soldier gave him chase. In the mean time, the ferocity of the search incited a violet riot. The public started shooting and throwing bricks at the soldiers. There was too much chaos and the army had to retreat hurriedly, forgetting about Private Hook altogether. It was one of the most realistic, violent and dramatic riots that has ever appeared in any film.

1-0021_7C7A4532Hook giving chase to the kid with the stolen gun 

Hook and fellow soldier were left stranded in the riot strewn street. The soldier was killed few minutes later and Hook runs for his life into unknown streets.  

What should have been a routine patrol was transformed into a living nightmare for young and terrified Private.

He was on his own. Lost in an unknown territory which was bewildering, foreign and terrifying at the same time, he was neither prepared for the hatred the residents had for him nor the hostile conditions he was now in.

Did he escape or was added to the long list of the innocent souls who were killed in the riots? That’s the core of the movie – A soldier’s fight for his survival even though the hope for survival diminishes with each passing minute.

The movie was a bit slow in the beginning, but later picked up a pace that was both compelling and thrilling.

There was nail-biting tension throughout the movie skillfully backed up by terrific and arresting background score by composer David Holmes. The eerie score generated both apprehension and creepy foreboding.

The movie is full of intensity and realism. You can almost feel the intensity of the violence, from guns, bombs, stones to knives. The tension was built scene by scene. Every new scene brought more violence and brutality. And it all seemed so real. Gary was all alone in such a hostile territory and there was no one he could trust.

The cinematography of the by Tat Radcliffe is impeccably crispy and perfect. He captured everything so authentically that it felt like we were watching a riot engulfed city in reality. The atmosphere itself was reeking of fear, glum and terror. Everything was top notch. The scenario was laid out as it was supposed to be in the riot spattered areas – vehicles on fire at every corner, street barriers, bombed-out buildings, foggy street lamps, hazy landscape, and dark menacing alleyways.


I shudder to think what the riots infested Belfast must have looked like in 1971. Seeing what transpired at the beginning of the movie, I could only imagine what horrors the people of Northern Ireland faced at that time.

Belfast has been portrayed as an unruly pit of desolation and terror which transformed the humans into monsters who wouldn’t think twice or blink before taking anyone’s life.

It’s quite disconcerting to see the ordinary people changing into murderous fiends devoid of coherent thinking.

The cast, well-chosen, delivered a power-packed performance together (Even though there were a few indistinct accents :P)

Jack O’Connell has given another mesmerizing performance of his life. He fits flawlessly into the role of naive, vulnerable and terrified soldier on the run for his life. He was wounded, terrified and hardly spoke throughout the movie, but conveyed his feelings thought his expressions and body language brilliantly. His facial expression when he was in physical pain or when he was hurting emotionally or when he was terrified was impeccable. He wasn’t portrayed as a typical hero – strong and fearless, but he was more believable because in face of danger, he was frightened (like any other sane person) but still didn’t lose the hope or the desire to survive. Jack O’Connell is outstanding as Private Hook.

  1-0020_'71 - First imagePrivate Hook : Wounded and running for his life


Barry Keoghan (Sean Bannon) didn’t have many lines to his credit as well but still expresses everything perfectly by his intense facial expressions. You could almost see the boy’s brain’s working fanatically whether to choose the good or the bad.  He was in dilemma and couldn’t bring himself to fully commit to a violent path.

 Barry Keoghan  as Sean Bannon

Sean Harris (Captain Sandy Browning) was impressive as ever. He was admirable in the role of a double-dealing undercover unit chief.

1-0017_7C7A9583Sean Harris (Captain Sandy Browning)

Sam Reid(Lt. Armitage) was Hook’s commanding Officer. His presence on the screen wasn’t as strong as I was expecting it to be.

Honestly, Charlie Murphy (Brigid) played one of those characters whose presence in the movie doesn’t matter. If they are in it, they do their part and if they aren’t, they are not missed.

Corey McKinley is listed as ‘Loyalist Child’ in the casting which I think is not right. He deserved to be acknowledged for a comparatively short role because he did give pretty good performance.

coreymckinley_f1-0012_7C7A0686Corey McKinley

1-0011_7C7A0652Corey McKinley and Jack O’Connell

In the beginning it was the story of one soldier, but later it morphed into the story of many characters. Everyone had their own demons to deal with. Everyone was paying the price of ongoing unrest. No one was entirely good or bad.

Besides the main plot the director tried to bring another interesting(?) angle to the plot. And that’s where the movie somewhat fails. Gary might have seen something that could have exposed someone. So the MRF unit as well as the republican radicals geared up to eliminate him. The former did so in order to avert exposure of their secrets and the latter, well, just because he existed.


There was no explanation about this in the end. We were left hanging with this piece of information like it wasn’t significant enough to have been explained to the audience. In the end the people lied and the truth didn’t come to the surface.

I couldn’t understand why the director needed to even bring this angle to the story when he wasn’t prepared to delve further into it or even explain it in the slightest.

Final Thoughts:

’71 is the first feature film by French-born, British-based TV director Yann Demange. This is a straightforward thriller movie. The best thing about it is that even though it was a quiet movie (lacking in dialogue), it spoke louder in every other aspect.

BUT, yes the BIG BUT,

I didn’t like the movie, not because it lacked anything, just because I don’t like such movies. The tension in the movie was fantastic and from time to time gripping and captivating as well. But I was more bored than entertained by this movie. But I won’t let my personal preference stop me from praising an extremely well-crafted movie.

If you are lover of survival-thriller genre in general, then you should definitely watch this movie. This is a very skillfully made movie packed with credible characters and outstanding performances. ’71 is an expertly directed debut from Yann Demange.

Samareen’s Rating (Out of 5): 




3 and half stars because of my personal preference otherwise the movie deserves 4 Stars.








3 thoughts on “Movie Review : ’71

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