Belfast Telegraph

'71 film review: Nerves shredded as rookie soldier runs gauntlet of war-torn Belfast

By Brian Henry Martin

I was born in 1971 and part of me was dreading watching this film. It is set in a year before the real Troubles kicked in with Bloody Sunday. Part of me was thinking – do you really want to go back there?

But it is a great thriller and keeps you right on the edge of your seat as the knot of tension is tightened in your stomach.

The audience sees the Troubles through a teenage soldier's eyes when he becomes separated from his platoon in the cauldron of violence that is 1971 Belfast. Yann Demange puts leading man Jack O'Connell through the physical wringer as he explores the sectarian divide through the eyes of a wet-behind-the-ears recruit, marked for death by the provisional IRA. '71 masterfully sustains tension without getting bogged down in the thorny politics of the era.

Nerves are shredded to tatters in the opening half hour and screenwriter Gregory Burke wrings every drop of suspense from his neat set-up.

'71 has actors from Northern Ireland such as Richard Dormer and Corey McKinley, who are fantastic. Martin McCann also has a great presence. This film has been all around the world. Our Troubles are the world's Troubles. They have watched this stuff on the news. It is about how this is part of their story too. '71 had to be filmed in Blackburn not Belfast. Realistically, Belfast is so different from what it was like in 1971. We are hopefully in a completely different place, in a different society.

  • Brian Henry Martin is a film critic

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