'71 review by Michelle Sommerville - Cinema Paradiso
Guns, fire, explosions, and a vulnerable soldier trapped behind enemy lines. These are just a few terms that describe the 2014 feature film ‘71. It is an important message and event in history, and was presented respectfully and accurately. I give it four out of five stars, because it is a brilliant example of storytelling and filmmaking.
The film follows Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell). He is a young British soldier who becomes separated from his unit, and is left to fend for himself in a terrifying rural war-zone. With rioting on the streets of Belfast, it is near-impossible to tell enemy from ally. Will Hook survive the night, or is he doomed to die in this foreign place?
Let us not deny it: war is hell. This is not just world wars, but even seemingly minor battles. Every year brings war epics to cinemas worldwide, but it is rare that we get films like ‘71, that portray the ‘minor’ battles. There are sure to be disagreements over how people and events are portrayed, but this is nothing new.
It is amazing to think how far Jack O’Connell has come in the last couple of years. From playing mostly minor roles in TV movies and television shows, he can now add his leading roles in ‘71 and Unbroken (2014) to his resume. Despite his early promise, he has managed to stay predominately under the radar; but I suspect all that is soon to change. The other cast were commendable, but O’Connell raised the bar pretty high.
There are definitely times when experience makes a film worth watching. There are also times when the film industry needs a fresh perspective. This film is an example of the latter. ‘71 is the directorial film debut by Yann Demange. His choice of camera movement - less restricted, non-stagnant movements - helps us to connect with these characters. They feel real, and not posed. This film’s writer was Gregory Burke, who also does not have an extensive film resume. This is his third project, and he has, without a doubt, done a brilliant job.
The editing work in films are usually an overlooked aspect - especially when done right. When specifically examining it, you can see how the short and sharp cuts work to quicken the action, and pull you to the edge of your seat.
The sets used in the film are fairly limited, but this does not take anything from it. We feel claustrophobic in the small apartments that offer little in the way of hiding spaces. As far as I could tell, the sets and costumes were era-authentic.
In-print and online critic reviews have been very positive for this film. Audiences have also responded positively, and this is not an easy task to accomplish.
There are many reasons why you should watch this film. As I have said, it ticks all of my boxes, and I would recommend this to anyone who is old enough to see it.