'71 (film)

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71 poster.jpg
UK release poster
Directed by Yann Demange
Produced by
  • Angus Lamont
  • Robin Gutch
Written by Gregory Burke
Music by David Holmes
Cinematography Tat Radcliffe
Edited by Chris Wyatt
Distributed by StudioCanal
Release dates
  • 7 February 2014 (2014-02-07) (Berlin Film Festival)
  • 10 October 2014 (2014-10-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £8.1 million[2]
Box office $2.9 million[3]

'71 is a 2014 British historical action film set in Northern Ireland written by Gregory Burke and directed by Yann Demange. It stars Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, David Wilmot, Richard Dormer, Paul Anderson, and Charlie Murphy, and tells the story of a British soldier who becomes separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast at the height of the Troubles in 1971. Filming began on location in Blackburn, Lancashire in April 2013 and continued in Sheffield and Liverpool. The film was funded by the British Film Institute, Film4, Creative Scotland and Screen Yorkshire.[4] The film had its premiere in the competition section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, held in February 2014.[5][6]


Gary Hook (O'Connell), a new recruit to the British Army, takes leave of his much younger brother Darren. Hook's squad of British soldiers is sent to Belfast in 1971 in the early years of The Troubles. Under the leadership of the inexperienced Lieutenant Armitage (Reid), his squad goes to a volatile area of Belfast where Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Loyalists live side by side. The unit provides support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary as it inspects homes for firearms, shocking Hook with their rough treatment of women and children. The Catholic neighbourhood has been alerted to the activity and a crowd gathers to protest and provoke the British troops who, though heavily armed, can only respond by trying to hold the crowd back.

One soldier has his gun pulled from his grasp by a young teen; Hook and another pursue him. As the crowd's protest escalates into rock-throwing, the soldiers and police pull out, leaving the two soldiers behind. Hook and the other soldier are briefly rescued by a sympathetic woman who tries without success to hold back a small crowd who are beating them. Hook sees the other soldier shot dead at point blank range by the young Nationalist Paul Haggerty (McCann) and then flees through streets and back alleys, finally eluding his pursuers and hiding until dark.

A Protestant youngster (McKinley) brings Hook to a local pub that serves as a front for the Loyalists, where he glimpses a Loyalist group in a back room constructing a bomb under the guidance of the Military Reaction Force (MRF), the covert counter-insurgency unit of the British Army. Hook steps outside the pub just before an enormous explosion destroys the building. Hook flees once more into the dark streets. Unaware that the Loyalists have blown themselves up, each of the two IRA factions charges the other with responsibility for the bombing.

Hook is discovered lying unconscious in the street by two Catholics, Eamon (Dormer) and his daughter Brigid (Murphy). They take him to their apartment and, even though they discover he is a British soldier, Eamon stitches his wounds. Eamon contacts Boyle (Wilmot), a senior IRA official, for help, expecting a more humane solution than the younger IRA faction would allow. Boyle, less radical and violent than younger IRA members, has a working relationship with the MRF. He tells MRF Captain Browning (Harris), leader of the British MRF section, of Hook's whereabouts and asks in return that Browning assassinate James Quinn (Scott), a key leader of the younger IRA faction.

Quinn and his IRA squad have been tailing Boyle since the pub explosion and saw him visit Eamon's apartment without knowing why he was there. Sensing danger, Hook flees the apartment, taking with him a sheathed blade. Moving painfully through the apartment complex halls and stairways, he eludes the IRA men who have separated to search for him. He hides when he can, once finding an open apartment door and encountering a little girl who watches him with a curious look as he signals for her to keep quiet. Finally unable to get away from the IRA member Haggerty who is about to come around a corner and discover him, Hook stabs him. As the wounded man lies dying, Hook reaches down and grasps his shoulder, sharing strength and sympathy as they hold each other's gaze and the IRA man dies.

Hook is captured by Quinn's group and taken to a hideout where Quinn orders Sean (Keoghan), a young teen whom Quinn has been recruiting, to execute Hook. As Sean hesitates and lowers his gun, Quinn prepares to execute Hook. Browning's group arrives and Lewis, to Hook's horror, shoots Sean. Lewis attempts to strangle Hook to prevent him from informing others of the bomb from earlier. As Lieutenant Armitage and his men enter in support of Browning, Armitage sees Lewis attempting to kill Hook. Sean raises himself and fires at Lewis before being shot by Armitage. Browning finds Quinn and rather than arrest him tells him that Boyle wants him dead. He promises to contact him soon, telling him he expects him to prove to be "a reasonable man".

Hook returns to his barracks. After some time, the officer in charge dismisses the incident between Hook, Lewis and Sean as a confused situation that merits no further inquiry. Hook returns to England and reunites with Darren.



'71 received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 97% of 115 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 7.7/10. The site's consensus reads: "Powerfully directed and acted, '71 stays true to its fact-based origins while remaining as gripping as any solidly crafted action thriller."[7] Metacritic rated it 83/100 based on 33 reviews, indicating universal acclaim.[8]

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan called ‍ '​71 "a tense thriller from Britain that so adroitly joins physical intensity, emotional authenticity and political acuity that you may find yourself forgetting to take a breath." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times singled out Jack O'Connell for praise, saying, "Mr. O'Connell runs away with ‍ '​71, in which his character's every emotional, psychological and physical hurdle makes for kinetic cinema." The Hollywood Reporter critic Leslie Felperin noted of Yann Demange's direction, "A big part of [Demange's] achievement resides in the casting of such a veteran crew of character actors in the first place, but credit is due for coaxing such subtle performances."[9]

‍ '​71 won Best Director at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards,[10] after receiving nine nominations.[11]


  1. ^ "'71 (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (February 7, 2014). "Yann Demange, '71". Screen Daily. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  3. ^ "'71". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Production Begins on Northern Ireland-set ‘71’". The Irish Film & Television Network (Iftn.ie). 16 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "First Films for Competition and Berlinale Special". berlinale. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  6. ^ Lodge, Guy (February 7, 2014). "Film Review: ‘ ’71’". variety.com. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  7. ^ "'71 (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "'71". Metacritic. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "'71 – Movie reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Barraclough, Leo (December 7, 2014). "Matthew Warchus’ ‘Pride’ Wins Top Prize at British Independent Film Awards". Variety. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  11. ^ Barraclough, Leo (December 5, 2014). "Amy Gustin, Deena Wallace to Head British Independent Film Awards". Variety. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 

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