Filmed over nine weeks, 71 tells the harrowing story of the start of the troubles in Northern Ireland in 1971.
New recruit Private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) expects to be stationed in Germany but after security deteriorates in Belfast; his platoon is informed that they are being deployed to Northern Ireland. Hook breaks the news to his 10-year-old brother, Darren (Harry Verity). He farewells his brother returning Darren to the Children’s Home where they have both been brought up, promising that he will return soon.
On arrival Hook and his platoon find themselves in a make shift dormitory occupying a disused school. They are quickly briefed about the situation in Northern Ireland.
The city of Belfast is divided between Protestant Loyalist areas (friendly) and the Catholic Nationalist areas (hostile), both with paramilitary factions. To complicate matters, the Nationalist movement is at war with its own: the “official” IRA (Irish Republican Army) against the younger, radical street-gangs – the “Provisional” IRA. The platoon’s first assignment is to assist the RUC (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) in a house search in the Catholic Community. The commanding officer refuses to allow his platoon to wear riot gear. When they arrive they come under heavy attack.
In the chaos that ensues Hook is accidentally left behind by his platoon. Unfamiliar with the territory Hook struggles to find his way back to barracks. In the dark of night with riots breaking out in the streets Hook becomes disoriented. Unable to tell friend from foe he has to make his way through the night in an increasingly volatile environment.
We last saw 24-year-old Jack O’Connell in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. His stellar performance earned him the BAFTA Rising Star Award earlier this year. O’Connell’s continues his terrific run with this outstanding performance as Private Gary Hook. He is backed up by superb direction from Yann Demange.
If you only see one film this week make it 71.
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