Thursday, 23 October 2014


One can read a lot into a film if one wishes to do so, and one can try to convince oneself that one's analysis of the film is valid and appropriate, and that it enhances one's appreciation of it. Yann Demange's '71 takes deliberate steps toward restricting any alternative analyses to that which it deems valid and appropriate - the Northern Irish conflict in recent decades, specifically in 1971 Belfast, depicted democratically, with both honour and dishonour on either side of the fight. That's a prettier picture to paint in retrospect; I suspect that the setting for '71 is an arbitrary detail, the ideal position in which to place the character of a wounded, abandoned soldier being in the midst of a civil war, in an English-speaking land for maximum commercial viability. As long as the specificities of the political animosity at play are kept buried, hidden so as not to disturb the tension or confuse the viewer, '71 is an excellent thriller. Demange has a straightforward directorial style, full of clarity and a boisterous energy that seeps away when he's not utilising it properly. In riveting sequences of violent action or, more often, the threat of violent action (which is much more effective, obviously), Demange exhibits an impressive verve for the techniques of thriller filmmaking, if little ingenuity. It's testament less to the abilities of anyone involved in making '71 than to the enduring strength of the stock genre elements employed in the film that their impact remains strong and sharp, no matter how many times we've experienced that impact before. But '71 functions well only as such a thriller - try to read into it any more than it asks of you, and you might only be underwhelmed by what you get.