Film No. 11 (2015) February 23rd. 8.00 PM SOMERVILLE U.W.A. Nedlands.
"Hey, listen, I don't want you worried about me, okay? I'll be fine, promise you." (Gary reassures his little brother all will be well on his first deployment).
It's 2015 and stories from the 60's and 70's about the raging conflicts in Northern Ireland are rarely told. They are yesterday's narratives. Well,that has changed because this gem of a film reaches out from the screen and reminds us of a time when the rage was so profound in the hearts of the Ulster Unionists, the nationalists (mainly Catholics) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary that when the British army stepped into their world, not even the soldiers knew exactly who they were protecting or more importantly who the enemy was.
Meet Private Gary Hook, a British subject who has been institutionalized with his much younger brother for a good part of their lives. His love for his brother is profound if only shown on screen in short segments. Hook is a simple man who probably joined up as a natural progression after being ruled by authority most of his life. His platoon is called to Belfast to keep the peace. Within 10 minutes of the film's opening we are on the streets dodging human waste being hurled by women and children.
It is during this routine mission that Gary is separated from his regiment and set upon by locals. He survives but has to run to save his skin, this leaves him on the streets and behind the lines. Jack O'Connell is excellent as the quietly petrified Hook as he tries to fathom who to trust and who ultimately he can rely on if he is to return to base. It is here we get a sense of the complicated politics of a time when corruption on all sides as opposed to passion was in-play. All the while Hook is a pawn.
A key to Hook's survival comes from the most unlikely folk. His meeting with a boy (Aaron Lynch) on the streets during a riot gives us the first taste of the humanity shown by a disheveled but street-wise urchin. Hook is constantly having his future decided by others while he is second guessing all that is whizzing around him. '71 pulls no punches and reminds us that innocence comes in many forms but is soon lost in both complicated and extraordinary circumstances. There is a hug exchanged in the final stanza that says it all. 10GUMS.