Tuesday, February 16, 2016

'71 (2014) Review:

Through recorded history, humans have fought each other since the beginning of time. Whether this was over something legitimate or something completely worthless, humans start making ruckuses when they don't get what they want. So much so that these uproars turn into huge confrontations that go on for lengthy periods of time. Look at the civil rights movement in the United States. African Americans fought for ages just to get their own rights and have the same level of equality as everyone else within the same borders. It's ridiculous how long it took for people to accept this way of thinking. Mind you this is only one place during a certain period in the history of the world. Before this there occurred civilian riots and revolutions before then and it also happened simultaneously during that time. Even now there are places with civil unrest. With that said, several stories of these struggles have been made into films. This movie belongs in that category to a certain degree. Is it effective? Eh...kind of.

Jack O'Connell
This England based movie was headed by first time French theatrical director Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke as his first theatrical screenplay. Before this Demange had only directed TV episodes and Burke had only written for TV movies. In this story audiences follow Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell), a soldier in training who is relocated to Belfast in order to help keep order among the civil unrest. During his first day on duty, chaos erupts and is accidentally left behind as his fellow comrades retreat. Stuck in enemy territory, Hook must try to escape before being executed by the rebellion that don’t hold English prisoners. The rebellion is led by Quinn (Killian Scott), Paul Haggerty (Martin McCann), Sean (Barry Keoghan) and a few others. This happens while his head officer Lt. Armitage (Sam Reid) tries to recover him along with some unexpected help from a man named Boyle (David Wilmot) on the other side as well.

When it comes to well made movies, most have great writers paired up with great directors. That's not to say Burke was not a good match with Demange because he definitely had the right ideas. However when it came to writing in backstories on certain elements, they go unexplained. At the start of the film, viewers are shown that Hook has a son and they have all of a brief two scenes together. We later on see the kind of impact having a child has on Hook but we don't get to know much about his relationship with his son and why a mom doesn't exist. The other component that could use some elaboration on was the setting at which this civil uproar takes place. The title itself says the year but as to why there was unrest, nothing is said. All viewers will know is that the residents of Belfast hate the Brits and want them out. Why? Is it just territorial control or does Belfast have a significant resource that England wants to hold onto? What? Unfortunately, there are more flaws within the script.

Another troublesome aspect to Burke's penmanship is that he barely has anything for Hook to say. Sure, as the audience watch they could assume why - possibly because he's out of breath and tired...but even then, when talking with people, he doesn't say much. There's nothing wrong with having simplicity and having the actions speak louder than the words, but that can't be majority of your execution all the time. For the most part, this is what it feels like. There are scenes of dialog involving other characters but it does get tiresome to watch the main protagonist say practically nothing the whole time. The acting on the other hand is praiseworthy. All the actors portray their characters in a way that feels human and relatable in at least one way. Plus with the overall situation, the tension is high in several places throughout the running time. Any time the hero ends up behind enemy lines, the steaks run very high. This takes us to another unique attribute; the direction.

"Wait for the signal....."
For his first time directing a theatrical film, Demange takes some significant risks with how he treats certain characters. Close to the start of the movie, there are sudden events that will have most viewers shocked of how unexpected a situation escalates. This happens more than once; so at that point the story telling becomes very unpredictable and that's great. The special effects are well mixed into the execution as well. No part of it look excessively fake or out of place. There are some moments of gore but nothing on the extreme grindhouse level either. The cinematography shot by Tat Radcliffe was somewhat off-putting though. The events take place over one night (like a horror movie), so the majority of it is in the dark but so much of it has a sepia tone and it gives the movie a very dull energy and presence. The musical score composed by David Holmes was adequate. It did engage the emotions and was the most effective during the more tense scenes. Softer scenes not so much.

Directionally, the movie is unpredictable which makes the tension quite good. The music and actors all perform well but the writing is where the film suffers. The main lead barely says a thing, his backstory is barely touched on, the situation of the setting isn't explained and the camerawork is uneventful.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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