’71 tells the harrowing story of Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) from his first days in the British Army to his appointment in Belfast. Fresh out of training, he and his unit are sent to Belfast because there is a war brewing up there. Hook and most of the army are young guys who don’t really know what they are getting themselves in to.
’71 focuses around the story of Hook when he is accidentally abandoned by his unit after a particularly nasty confrontation with some of the locals. Feeling that his life is in danger, Hook sets off on foot to try outrun the local youths who have now armed themselves. Set against the almost depressing backdrop of Belfast during the era of the Troubles, this film does more than look good on-screen.
It tells the story of the men on the ground and what they were willing to do to survive. Taught from a young age that the opposing side are in the wrong, Hook is left feeling like he will never get out. Until he meets a young boy who is on his side. Thinking that all will be good, he follows the young boy, only to find that it may have been a trap.
The deep divide between Catholic and Protestant is show in full light in this film with young boys as young as six or seven hurling abuse at the officers in the street. Lovers of Love/Hate will be happy as both Killian Scott and Charlie Murphy make an appearance in this film. Quinn (Killian Scott) is a big timer in the area and he is the one people go to, to get stuff done. He is brought in to help find Hook and with a style that you would expect he leaves a few messes behind.
What really struck me about this film was the rawness of it. It is definitely not a film for the faint of heart as there are moments when it is just impossible to look at the screen. You can also nearly feel the loneliness and desolation at times, which to me is the sign of a good film. There are also a few surprises along the way and you will leave wanting to learn more about the era in the North.