’71

March 15, 2015 at 5:54 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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From the fist-flying first scene, the tone is set for this careening rush of a film. Part action movie, part war movie with dashes of “Run Lola Run,” this was the most tense I have felt in a theater in a long time. Director Yann Demange (in his first feature film) shows a canny ability to frame a scene to hold the audience rapt. He can build tension both explosively and painfully slowly and this film called for both. Set in Belfast in 1971, the story covers one night as a British soldier left behind on the streets tries to make it to safety. Much happens in the intervening hours over a taut 99 minutes, sometimes in rapid, unrelenting bursts and sometimes at a slow simmer but always, always tense. Jack O’Connell (newly famous for the lead role in Angela Jolie’s “Unbroken”) plays the young private with a desperate intensity that easily draws the audience in; he is a character impossible not to sympathize with. Strong performances also came from Corey McKinley, as the young protestant who initially helps him and, in particular, from Barry Keoghan as his IRA doppelganger, Sean. Though somewhat predictable, their intertwining relationship plays out effectively. A story like this cannot help but make social commentary and it would be hard to not apply this conflict to our modern world. Early street scenes reminded me so much of virtually identical scenes in recent films about the US presence in Iraq or Afghanistan. I was also really struck by how much the Irish not only attacked the occupying British but also each other. This morning, I was speaking with a friend in Tel Aviv and we were coincidentally talking about the conflict there. He told me about prejudice and hostility between not just Jews and Palestinians but also between the Ashkenazim Jews and the Mizrahim Jews. I suppose there are similar conflicts within the Palestinians. It seems human beings feel value only by establishing our superiority over each other. Homo homini lupus. As it was, it appears it will always be.

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