Critics' Pick

'71 (R)

Action/Adventure 100 min. February 27, 2015
By Amy Nicholson
In '71, Yann Demange tints the midnight alleys of Belfast like an Irish flag dragged through the mud: black skies, sickly green lamps, and the orange flames of torched cars. It's 1971, the height of the Troubles, and the town is hushed by a curfew yet roiling with fractious anger. The Protestants hate the Catholics, the zealots loathe the moderates, and even the British military shipped over to enforce the quiet festers with double-dealers.

The overall effect feels like a zombie flick -- anyone daring the streets is a threat. Somehow, stranded English soldier Gary (Jack O'Connell) must limp back to his barracks before any puffed-up punks with a gun blow his head off to make a point. As he did playing Louis Zamperini, O'Connell suffers more than he speaks. He's again tasked with silently creating a real character from a script that uses him as a symbol. In Unbroken, his blackened eyes and busted lips signified strength. Here, he's just a bewildered pawn who hasn't got a clue who the players are and why they want him dead. '71 shuns even a drop of Irish cinema's mordant humor. The closest this excellent, tensely controlled thriller gets to a joke is the bitter irony that the Irish are better at killing each other than murdering Gary — even the ones fighting on the same side.
Yann Demange Jack O'Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris, Charlie Murphy, Paul Anderson, Killian Scott, Martin McCann Gregory Burke Angus Lamont, Robin Gutch Roadside Attractions

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