Spoiler free synopsis
This movie finds young British soldier Gary Cook, played by Jack O Connell (Starred Up, The North Water), who is posted to Belfast in 1971, the tour of duty that nobody wants. On what is his first manoeuvre outside the barracks, he is cut off from his unit. He finds himself lost, injured and alone in an alien landscape where friend and foe look the same.
If this sounds like a familiar story, well that’s because it is –The Eagle, Black Hawk Down, The Warriors even 1917 to name a few, have had this narrative at the heart of their movies.
Will it explain The Troubles to me?
No. ‘71 is first and foremost a tense genre movie. A manhunt that isn’t heavy on the history. However, I think O’Connell’s lost squaddie shows how so often the foot soldiers were poorly educated, inexperienced young men thrust into a situation of which they little understood. Plucked from the projects and trained to kill, but not to ask why. Belfast, Vietnam, Iraq – the lessons are never learnt.
Gary hasn’t a clue why The Troubles are happening. All he knows is that all the Irish hate the British and that they can’t be trusted. Because that’s what he’s been told. Yet here he is, in the belly of the beast, with no plan, no phone, no friends. He’d better learn fast, or he has no hope.
You might like this if you enjoyed:
Centurion, The Warriors