Rising star Jack O’Connell continues his on-screen persona as a young disenfranchised adult questioning authority in this tense thriller. His previous roles have included youth hooliganism in Eden Lake and Harry Brown, counter-culture violence/racism in This Is England and youth criminality in Starred Up, but it’s an interesting choice to cast O’Connell as a young British solider.
Director Yann Demange (Dead Set) seamlessly makes his transition from television to cinema as he tells the story of young British soldier Gary Hook (O’Connell) who is accidentally separated from his unit during a Belfast riot at the height of the Troubles period in the titular’s year. Hook attempts to survive the hostile and violent streets over the course of one day and night.
O’Connell’s performance as a disenfranchised young adult is equally as complex as his prior role in Starred Up for it is an anti-authoritarian persona that lurks beneath the surface and remains restrained, but is, ironically, nurtured via circumstance. His says very little but this is a complex role made possible by his performance and a solid script, which lacks direct exposition, forcing the audience to engage. Instead, much of the dialogue derives from the other characters and is packed with aggression, paranoia and urgency. Furthermore, the narrative offers plenty of twists and surprises to prevent compliancy and emphasises the unpredictable and dangerous terrain it is set in.
The locations also reflect Hook’s state of mind, for they’re either in enclosed decimated alleyways, making him feel paranoid, or vulnerable in the open desolated streets. This constant change between the two environments fuels the tension. Alongside his narrative, there’s a power struggle between the two factions in this small estate, as well as tension between the Irish and British personnel. While it lacks thorough explanation, which would be detrimental to other movies, in ’71 this is the film’s strength as it entrusts the audience’s prior knowledge of the political landscape and allows manoeuvrability for a straight survival thriller.
The main motif of ’71 is paranoia, which never ceases once Hook is separated. This tense survival thriller is made possible by its clever use of naturalistic and aggressive dialogue, its enclosed spacing and unpredictable narrative. The minimal exposition will keep audiences engaged and Hook’s lack of dialect highlights O’Connell’s acting prowess.
‘71 will be released nationwide on 10th October 2014.
Watch the trailer for ’71 here: