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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Movie Review - '71

'71 (2015)
Starring Jack O'Connell, Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer (father), Sean Harris, Martin McCann, Cory McKinley (kid), Charlie Murphy (daughter), Sam Reid, Killian Scott, and David Wilmot
Directed by Yann Demange
***This film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime***

As I watched '71 and recognized the quality of the direction from first time feature film auteur Yann Demange, I also couldn't help but be thoroughly befuddled by the various political factions trying to win out as this story unfolded.  With actors/characters looking too similar and heavier Irish and Brit accents, I found myself lost at times.  Couple that with a late night viewing (which obviously is no fault of the film itself) and I must confess that these various factors affected my enjoyment.

'71 takes place in Northern Ireland in 1971 when Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Loyalists found themselves fighting one another for political control.  Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) is a young, British solider sent with his platoon to try and help appease the disruptions, but when they're sent out on their first peacekeeping/protection mission, a riot breaks out.  When one of the Catholic rioters steals a soldier's gun, Gary is told to rush and get the gun back.  In the ensuing melee, Hook's regiment leaves him behind and Gary finds himself as a soldier in enemy territory with people who don't want him in their neck of the woods to try and quell the political upheaval.

Director Demange does a fantastic job in the film's first half creating a chaotic atmosphere in which Gary is unsure who to trust or how to escape.  There are several jaw-dropping moments that had me thoroughly excited for the remainder of the film to play out.  Unfortunately, the flick becomes very talky in the second half which may hold significance for Brits and Irish watching this, but for this American, I began to lose interest.  I don't mean that as an Ameri-centric slight on other cultures, but rather as a fact that I'm simply unfamiliar with the crux and political aspirations of the Catholic-Protestant contention of this era.  I know it was highly significant and I'd certainly heard about and had some knowledge of the issue, but not being fully informed on the tensions proved to be detrimental to the film.

As I mentioned above, many of the actors look somewhat similar and the cast is full of relative unknowns to me.  While they all do a good job, it grew a bit confusing in part because of my lack of full understanding of the historical event, but also because there were factions within factions of both groups that were "tertiarally" mentioned that then come into greater play as the film progresses.  To keep up with these side groups while I was trying to comprehend the main political event proved to be too much.

Yes, I realize I should be more up to date on my Anglocentric history, but it let me down here.  I also recognize that perhaps this shouldn't have been a late night watch where my mind may have wandered more easily than had I watched it another time.  I say these things because I recognize that Jack O'Connell is quite good here as the beleaguered soldier and I've already praised the first-time director for his work, yet somehow '71 just didn't quite click for me.  That said, I do think it does a nice job of portraying the history of this heated internal Irish battle -- if only I'd known a little more of the history beforehand...

The RyMickey Rating:  C

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