Bullet Points: ’71
Living in a war zone must be pretty tough. I know I get upset when I am relaxing on my Barcalounger watching an action movie when someone rings the doorbell and I have get up to answer. I can only imagine how much of a bother it would be if a mortar round decided to come into my home theater room uninvited. The fine folks of Northern Ireland know all too well about living through such Troubles. The sad part is that nobody knows why they were fighting. My guess is that some pints were involved. Someone was making fun of someone’s silly accent. Someone else disparaged the looks of someone’s ugly wife and they started fighting with their tanks, and their bombs, and their bombs, and their guns. In your head they are crying. In your head, in your head, zombie, zombie, zombi-ie-ie…
The 2014 film ‘71 does a superb job of placing the audience in the middle of a 1971 skirmish in Belfast during The Troubles as we get to follow Private Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) on his first deployment. Things don’t go as planned and Hook and the audience are in for very tense action-packed ride. While the specific story in ‘71 is not based on an actual event, much of the film is based on historical accuracies which only leads to the suspenseful atmosphere and enjoyment. It never hurts to feel like the story might have happened as it allows the audience to really connect with Hook and his plight.
- Linger – Hook and his team are called into Belfast to assist with some house raids to search for guns. Of course the local Irish/Catholics/IRA are not fans of the British/Protestants/Ulster Loyalists and a riot starts. When a British soldier has his gun stolen by a child (classic rookie mistake) Hook and another soldier chase after the little thief while the riot is escalating. Hook and the other soldier are left behind during all the confusion as the Lieutenant doesn’t want the British troops to linger in the streets. Hooks sees his partner shot in the face but is able to elude the rioters by running through the streets and alleys. The chase is on by both the more radical Provisional IRA and the Official IRA. Luckily the opening credits training montage parallels the skills necessary for Hook to traverse his surroundings.
- Dreams – There are two conflicts in ‘71 that play out through the one night in Belfast. Not only is the IRA after Hook, but the Provisional IRA and Official IRA are after each other. To add further trouble, the British have undercover agents that are simultaneously trying to save Hook while also trying to not compromise their subterfuge efforts. I loved the layered position of the characters and the story. While the audience is clearly meant to root for Hook, the “good guys” aren’t necessarily good and the “bad guys” aren’t necessarily bad. Both sides are given chances to present their political beliefs, ideologies and dreams without the filmmakers telling you which to follow and the audience is able to interpret on their own while still cheering for Hook.
- Ridiculous Thoughts – Hook ends up at the infamous Divis Flats under the care of Eamon, a former British medic and his daughter Brigid. Eamon nurses Hook enough so he can escape just before the IRA closes in on his location. Brigid thinks helping Hook and Eamon contacting the Official IRA are ridiculous thoughts because the Provisional IRA controls the area around the Divis Flats. A real deadly cat and mouse chase takes place at the flats with Hook finally getting captured only to be saved in a remarkable yet predictable fashion. Like all good governments, the British cover up the truth leaving Hook and his Lieutenant exasperated on who is getting the blame.
‘71 is a very enjoyable action war thriller. While there are many common conventions such as the green, inexperienced lieutenant (read leftenant); the grizzed sergeant (played by the fabulously named Babou Ceesay); young adults unsure if they are doing the right thing; and little children who swear, drink and moon British soldiers, there is a reason we often see these characters. They work. Well, you don’t often see such foul little children, but that was more of a little bonus to watch the film. You like getting bonuses? Here are some Bonus Bullet Points…
- Most accurate quote from the former British Army medic helping Hook, “The Army is rich cunts telling thick cunts to kill poor cunts.” Hooah!
- Many of you might remember Jack O’Connell for the movie Unbroken where he played U.S. Olympian and WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamperini. When they make a movie of my life I hope they don’t cast O’Connell because it means I must have gone through some shit.
- I got real excited when I saw that Brigid was played by Charlie Murphy only to find out it wasn’t the one slapped by Rick James.
- I have heard some criticisms that ’71 was not filmed in Northern Ireland and without Irish actors. That makes me sick. Star Wars wasn’t filmed in outer space and it was filmed without aliens and you people lapped that movie up.