An intense film about the Troubles with a great performance by Jack O'Connell
1971 is the year which was at the height of The Troubles. It's the time when most Protestants, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, versus the Catholics, who wanted the United Kingdom to join a united Ireland, fought against each other, yet there were certain people within these communities who were for the opposite side.
O'Connell plays a young English soldier form Derbyshire who is part of a larger unit tasked with trying to calm a riot in Belfast. At the riot, all hell breaks lose; the locals are not happy to see the army there as they search local homes for terrorists. The locals revolt and attack the soldiers, the soldiers retreat and leave, and two of them, including Private Gary Hook (O'Connell), are left behind. The other soldier is killed, but Hook manages to run from the angry mob, but is chased by two of them through the city's backroads and alleys. He does find a hiding place where he stays for a while. Once he feels it's safe to venture back outside, he is befriended by a nine-year old (Corey McKinley in an excellent performance for a young actor). But, in what is one of the most surprising and shocking moments I've seen on screen all year, the pub blows up, with the kid in it.
Hook is eventually caught and beat up, but he is taken in by a father and daughter who are sympathetic to him and who hide him in their flat. But word spreads through the community that they are hiding a British soldier, and locals want to kill him. Meanwhile, his platoon starts looking for him as well. Who will find him first, and what condition will they find him in?
Director Yann Demange and writer Gregory Burke have created a film with lots of suspense and action, with amazing real scenes of rioting and violence. It's beautifully shot by Tat Radcliffe - even the explosions look very vivid. But '71 is not a perfect film. The showdown at the end is a bit overdramatic and plays with your heartstrings, and there's lots of blood spilled but very little stains left, but it's rising star O'Connell's film. Formerly of television's Skins and most recently in Starred Up as a young man who is sent to prison, O'Connell again displays that he can command a movie. And his profile is only going to get higher. His next film will be Unbroken, which is about the life of Olympic athlete Louis "Louie" Zamperini - to be played by O'Connell. It's a film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie. O'Connell is on the way to bigger and better things.