Not all wars have glory and not all intense war films are glorifying. ’71 is a relentless, impressive and frank film about the IRA conflict, The Troubles at its peak, and moreover how no wars are fought strictly between combative soldiers on isolated battlefields.
Gary (Skins’ Jack O’Connell) is an anxious soldier being delivered into a fraught situation. After a sleepless night, he’s assigned to escort a routine arms hunt in Catholic Nationalist territory, when the situation boils over he’s separated from his unit. Like a rat in a maze, Gary is shell-shocked and suffocating through a familiar but alien space, unable to trust anyone with his safety. After he unknowingly witnesses a secretive op from his own outfit go sour, he becomes a most wanted man, an enemy to the extremists he was sent in to temper and the people who sent him.
I was jumpy for a full hour after ’71. It will wind you up and propel you away. An exemplary first film from Yann Demange, it shows how consuming conflict is. How good, kind people are thrust into turmoil, and how lives are compromised regardless of involvement. It goes deep into The Troubles, but can force you to meditate on war ongoing, how battle is suffering to a community. Again, not all wars have glory, but not all heroes shoot guns.
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF 2014 coverage.