Film review: IRA thriller ’71

Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is a young British recruit with a patriot’s heart, who lands in Belfast as part of an emergency crew assigned to keeping the peace in the heart of the fighting.

Director Yann Demange wastes no time in establishing a sense of calamity and implementing his fish-out-of-water parable, only in this case, there’s no humour lurking beneath the surface.

Hook is thrown into a high-speed narrative exploring the perils and seedy back-alley underground of the religious factions as he fights for survival amongst the hazy, dangerous streets.

The narrative transitions continuously from thriller, to political drama, to spy thriller and then back to war drama.

Demange’s camerawork is sweepingly claustrophobic and each frame carries a glimmer of woe, as Tat Radcliffe’s cinematography encapsulates the feel of this urban war.

It reflects the mood with crisp precision, as the camera flickers like a pair of eyes staring bleakly through the mist as we follow Hook’s scrambles and shakes, as war torn Belfast beats him limb from limb.


’71 is now showing at Cornerhouse in Manchester. For more information click here.


O’Connell’s performance reverberates off the screen like a hammer on a nail and he throws himself into the role, bringing that edge of youth but the soldier’s bite.

The supporting cast is solid, each providing their own unique way of showing the war through their eyes, with Barry Keoghan delivering a promising performance as the afflicted teen, Sean.

David Holmes’ soundtrack is perfectly paced, invigorating and also refreshes the scene when the narrative moves to staler territory. It’s a frenetic piece of work that is as narrative driving as it is unnerving.

From the opening aggression of the boxing fight, to the restless chasing through the Belfast streets, this is a perfect embodiment of a claustrophobic action film that marks its territory as a solid British effort but also as one that has some performances to be very proud of.

’71 is now showing at Cornerhouse in Manchester. For more information click here.

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