Yann Demange’s tense thriller, ’71, set almost entirely over the course of one fateful day in 1971 Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of The Troubles, is both a political and personal film. Told from the perspective of British soldier Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), a new recruit on the cusp of manhood, sent into battle before he’s even finished his training, ’71 looks at the clandestine machinations on both sides of the struggle — the IRA and the British Army and MRF who sometimes even collaborate and scheme together— but is completely devoid of the history behind the conflict: Gary is too young to understand the years of grief and oppression that caused the Troubles, so what he sees, and what we see, are the ways in which people get swept up in the battle, in the fight, without thinking.
When Gary’s unit is deployed in Belfast, and sent to assist the local police on a routine search of a local IRA home, a riot breaks out. In an attempt to recover a gun that gets stolen during the riot, Gary finds himself not only separated from his unit, but badly beaten, lost, and alone, deep in enemy territory. The rest of the film follows him as he struggles to survive the night, when telling the difference between friend and foe is no easy matter. His supposed enemies end up being the ones saving his life. And by the end of the night, almost everyone, including the MRF, wants him dead.
Read more: Director Yann Demange on the making of ’71 >>