It’s not a very good habit, but I tend to get most of my historical and general knowledge from watching various TV shows and films. This has stemmed from the years where I used to quote Friends everyday. And now it’s gotten a bit more serious. In some ways, at least I’m learning about a range of subjects that I wouldn’t normally learn about through an entertaining medium. In other ways, it’s bad because you don’t have an actual clue if any of what they are depicting on screen is remotely anywhere near the truth.
’71 is set during the troubles in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A place where the Catholic Loyalists lived next door to Protestant Republicans and spouted several dangerous riots all around the city. The British army were deployed to help the Police keep the peace, but who were they fighting? No one was supposed to be the enemy. It’s not that the British were fighting the Catholics. But that the Catholics would fight the army regardless because they were Brits. It seems like a horrendous place and time, the severity of which is strengthened by the fact that the two sides of Ireland are still fighting each other to this day, which is heart breaking in this day and age.
Back to the film! It follows Gary (the amazing Jack O’Connell) as his troop gets deployed to Northern Ireland. On their first mission, he finds himself separated from his troop due to a terrible incident and running for his life away from a Catholic gun-happy maniac. The rest of the film follows the remainder of the night as Gary tries to fight for his life in the heart of the Catholic side of the city and attempt to get back to his Barracks.
It’s the quiet, solemn acting style of O’Connell and the beautiful cinematography of such a disastrous war scene that make the film for me. It’s this kind of film that proves just how much you can make with a small budget and a lot of creativity. I’m not sure if any of the story is actually accurate, but no matter, the emotion and the confusion of the time is both disturbing and a deep shame.
So, to sum up: A truly inspiring and skilfully made film from a spur of the moment cinema trip. Best spontaneous decision I’ve made in ages.
Other films you may enjoy: This is England (2006), Full Metal Jacket (1987)
If you’re a fan of film reviews, you might want to read about why Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003) is the best in the series, and my close scene analysis of Lost in Translation.