'71 (GB 2014)

Director: Yann Demange

Starring: Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, Charlie Murphy, Paul Anderson, Sam Reid, Richard Dormer

Screenplay: Gregory Burke

Music: David Holmes 

Editor:  Chris Wyatt

Cinematography: Tat Ratcliffe

Bit Part: Valene Kane as 'Spitting Woman' (that's why her parents scrimped and saved to send her to drama school)

Random Fact: Old school NI comic Frank Carson served in the Parachute Regiment

In One Line: a British soldier gets lost in Belfast


British squaddie Gary Hook leaves his non-descript Midlands town and his in-care son to serve in Northern Ireland. During a fierce riot, he is trapped by the mob and escapes into the terraced streets of Belfast. He is pursued by the IRA, but is befriended by the ten year old nephew of a Loyalist bigwig.

After being injured in a pub bombing,  Hook is rescued by a local man and former British army medic, but the IRA and British Army intelligence are after him...


71 is a stunning film. My old dad (God rest his soul) was an ex-army man who would frequently boot the telly screen in when he saw military inexactitude depicted on screen. I think he'd rather have liked this film, though. There's an authenticity to the soldiering which somehow feels right - although I may be talking rubbish here.

The performances are  excellent throughout and the nightmarish quality of being trapped behind 'enemy lines' has a metaphorical aspect which transcends the nominal 'war movie' genre feel of the film.

There are elements of Hitchcock and Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda - along with The Hill, Paths of Glory and even Escape From New York in Demanges's crisply directed film. The politics are deliberately muddied and the film takes on an extra conspiracy-theory dimension as Hook and his commanding officer try to report their version of the 'truth' to the military/government authorities - and also when it becomes as clear as it can be that collusion involves all sides, and that selfish ends replace noble aspirations in the hearts of almost all concerned.

Gregory Burke's screenplay is excellent and  combined with the taut directing and superb, unshowy central performance from O'Connell, this is one of my favourite British films in years.

I've been to Belfast a few times, but some of the locations seemed more familiar than most. It was only when I found out that some of the Belfast scenes had been filmed in the terraced streets of north(ish) Liverpool that it dawned on me: I'd been living through The Troubles all along in the seventies!*

*shudders at the memory

(SV 2014)