“’71” at The 52nd New York Film Festival, September 26-October 12, 2014

Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) is down behind enemy lines in "'71"

Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is down behind enemy lines in “’71”

The New York Film Festival will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from September 26 – October 12, 2014.   Although the press screenings have just started, this year’s line up looks to be a formidable one with over 30 feature films from around the world, in addition to 21 revivals and 15 documentaries.

From Ireland, director Yann Demange’s “’71” is a suspenseful, pulse pounding, riveting account of a British soldier, cut off from his unit, lost and trying to stay alive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1971 at the height of what was called “the Troubles.” “’71” is a skillfully directed thriller with plenty of action, solid characters and a real sense of the historical and political situation of the time.

I will admit that part of the story of “’71,” while compelling, is also a bit confusing. I do not mean that as negative criticism. The confusion comes out of the fact that the situation that the film depicts is itself a disorienting one. The story involves Protestants, Catholics and the British all involved in a conflict that has complex political, historical and ethnic dimensions. Director Demange does not attempt to give a history lesson. His story is a movie and he expertly keeps the story, well, moving.

At points, in “’71,” it was hard to tell which characters were on which sides and what their political motives might be.  As indicated earlier, I think that this is an authentic part of the world being depicted.

In some scenes I did find the British and Irish accents a bit tough to understand. While on the one hand I found myself wishing for subtitles, on the other hand the performances were so strong that, even though I may not have been able to understand every word, I understood the meaning of what the characters were saying. This, on some level, is even more important.

Demange skillfully juggles and delineates many interesting characters along the way, not the least of which is Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) the main character. Hook is our entry into the world of this story. We are really put into his point of view. By film’s end I genuinely felt as if I had gone through all that he did. It took me a while to leave my seat after the film had finished.

“’71” is a taut thriller, well directed and acted. It will be shown on September 27 at 6:00 pm at Alice Tully Hall and on September 28 at 6:00 pm at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theatre.



About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on September 16, 2014, in 52nd New York Film Festival and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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