Having recently visited the Emerald Isle, it almost seems that "The
Troubles" are far behind; the peace accord is firmly in place, and the
picturesque country no longer lives in daily threat of terroristic incidents.
Ah, but talk to a native, and the bucolic landscape doesn't look so peaceful.
Memories of the civil strife are still fresh in the minds of any adult resident,
because they all remember what it was like when they were children. And it
Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) is a young British soldier whose unit is
snatched out of basic training in order to help quell a riot in
That's why, in the midst of the chaos and confusion of confronting an
angry mob, Hook gets separated from his unit, beaten to a bloody pulp, and his
gun stolen, and it was only the intervention of a female civilian that saved his
life: "Quit, boys! He's had enough!"
Meanwhile, the riot had gotten ugly, rock throwers were pelting the
soldiers, just daring them to start shooting, and they, having left their riot
gear back in the barracks under the mistaken premise of not intimidating the
populace, were themselves intimidated right back into their trucks, accompanied
by the gleeful jeers of the madding crowd.
So Hook finds himself stumbling down a dark alleyway looking for any kind
of shelter, but uncertain, in this particular part of
Finally, Hook meets a young lad, about the age of the boy he'd gone to
visit at the first of the film (a younger brother in the orphanage,
perhaps---it's not really explained). The young lad leads Hook to a pub,
and tells him to stay put at the bar, drinking a Guinness. Meanwhile, the
boy makes his way to the back room and tells the serious men gathered there that
he's found the soldier they’re all looking for, he's at the bar, and they can
have him whenever they want.
Well, that would have been the end of it, except suddenly a bomb goes off
inside the bar, and Hook manages to escape once again, but now he's more
seriously wounded, and needing immediate medical attention. Ironically,
the man who happens by with his grown daughter was a medic in the Army, and just
can't leave the soldier lying there in the street bleeding, through his daughter
had been part of the street-rioting group in the first place. But at the
former medic's insistence, they take him home and try to suture his wounds,
without anesthetic (not a scene for the faint of heart).
But somehow word gets out where the soldier is hiding, and that causes
more trouble. Hook manages to escape again, barely, but now he's out on
the street, alone, still being pursued by vigilante thugs, hoping someone back
in his unit might be organizing a search and rescue party. As it turns
out, they are, but it's complicated: they have informants planted in the
IRA cells, and don't want to blow their cover by looking for Hook. So the
rookie soldiers are again left to their own devices, unable to determine friend
from foe until the shooting starts, and by then it can very well be too late to
make a judgment.
"71" is tense, taut, and gripping, but the viewer is likely to
be as disoriented and confused as the main character. The accents are very
thick, it's never explained who's who in the labyrinth of angry young men, who
sometimes don't spare their outrages toward one another. And then there's
the apparent "double agents" who confuse us with their mixed
loyalties, which undoubtedly happened frequently in the actual conflict, as
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the
Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church,