Jack O’Connell has already started to make a name for himself on the silver screen having excelled in ‘Starred Up‘ earlier this year. He’s fast becoming one of the best British actors around, and you need someone like that to carry a film which focuses so heavily on its main screen presence, every facial expression and grimace mattering. He is once again brilliant in the role, emanating charisma and a steely resilience that makes his performance quietly brilliant. Never outlandish and always subtle, O’Connell is not the sort of actor to completely let it go in the mould of people like Nicolas Cage or Christopher Walken but it’s that broiling sense of emotions kept barely under the surface that is highly rewarding.
As a first time director for the big screen, Yann Demange has done a fantastic job of making sure the film maintains its nail-biting, intense edge with lots of close-ups and provocatively shot scenes that maintain the suspense until the last possible second. This, together with a brilliant score by David Holmes means that every frame is gripping, and that constant sense of dread doesn’t leave you until the end of the film. As well as being intelligently shot, it also deals with the ideas of perspective and the general uncertainty of the whole situation very well, as people on the same side are frequently at odds with each other, even to the point of turning on each other like they had done against their actual ideological enemies. The performances of the likes of David Wilmot, Paul Anderson and Killian Scott also go a long way in ensuring that, as the supporting cast does a very good job in supporting O’Connell, no matter how small the role. First time feature film screenwriter Graham Burke does a great job too as no line of dialogue is perfunctory, everything is played to add to the rising tension.
”71′ is ultimately a clever thriller about a man in a place completely unknown to him, threatened by those who want to kill him and in desperate need to return to a place of relative safety. It deals with its other themes, mainly those of the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland, subtly and on a personal level, not addressing it on a large scale but ensuring that the individual stories mattered. Not a minute too long and directed like a veteran, Demange is certainly one to look out for in the future having made his move from television, where he helmed series as wide ranged as the likes of ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’ and ‘Top Boy’, in to cinema where he has certainly made a taut, intelligent thriller that may not be revelatory, but is certainly a damn good ride, thrilling and entertaining.
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