Friday, April 3, 2015

Film Review: ’71 (2014)

Copyright: StudioCanal
Northern Ireland during the Troubles was undoubtedly a horrible place to live in, but now, decades later, it provides a fantastic setup for a thriller. Like the Shadow Dancer which came out in recent years, ’71 is bleak and brutal, but unlike the previously mentioned drama, has a lot bigger action flavor to its thriller core.

In 1971, a young British recruit by the name of Gary Hook arrives in Belfast; a city divided by red bricks and spilled blood. Gary does not seem like a violent man or someone who desires to become involved in local politics in any possible manner. Instead, he is there to do a job.

One day, his unit is deployed to act as a backup to the local constables who go on a raid of suspected IRA supporters. The scene quickly turns into a riot and Gary and one of his brothers in arms are separated from their fleeing comrades. They get a beating by the local teenagers before a man walks up to them and shoots the other soldier at point blank range.

Gary makes a run for it, knowing that his failure to escape will lead to his death. Yann Demang, who previously worked in the TV industry, made this film is a manner that can only be described as gripping. His editing, along with the pacing he forces upon this film makes every moment a tense experience, where death lurks around every corner, both accidental and intentional. But, although he did create the film to be primarily, an action thriller, there was still plenty of room for history and bitter political comment on the entire time, where IRA, Provisional IRA and the British power structures all made decisions that lead to too many deaths.

In this perspective, Sean Harris is especially interesting as Captain Sandy Browning, a ruthless pain-clothes member of the military who seems to be running the entire city. Harris is terrific as the shadowy figure and should be given more roles like this one because he delivered his character flawlessly.

’71 is a film that makes history into a thrilling movie but does not add glamour or flair to it.