LFF Preview: '71

A cat and mouse game of the most brutal kind, Yann Demange presents his first feature film, the blood-soaked '71, at this year's BFI London FIlm Festival.  Following new recruit Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) a British soldier deployed to Belfast and left behind during a routine mission that goes awry, this tense thriller will have you gripped.  Running for his life from extreme Irish nationalists, the lines are soon blurred as he finds himself targeted by both sides.  In this jumpy thriller, the heart-beat pounding soundtrack is the main narration to this nightmare-ish fight for survival.

Jack O'Connell was made to play this role.  Close-ups of his panic stricken face are dizzyingly broken with hand-hand cameras tracking his route in this complex maze of a broken community.  More than once both he and the audience find themselves having to question who is left to trust as the story spirals into different intangible webs of deceit, men turning against men.  Bombs go off in the middle of a scene, the people of the streets attack with guns and knives; Belfast has become a grisly warzone. In this surreal inner-city setting (a woman walks her baby, there is washing still hanging out on the line etc) the sadness lies in the fact that this is just another day in Belfast, a town separated by the front line.

The beauty of this film lies in the characterization of Gary.  With very little actual dialogue and his background only touched upon with a visit to his old school at the opening of the film, O'Connell manages to portray his sheer determination, the confused alliance to the war effort and his heart-breaking empathy with the men on both sides purely through his reactions to the events alone.  Bloodied and exhausted, he is a magnet for the camera, with his on-screen quality and a performance that will get under your skin.  Released within the First Feature Film competition at the Festival, the film is an incredible vehicle in which to showcase the gravitas of one of Britain's finest acting talents of today.