The title refers to 1971, the year when Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell), a private in the British army, finds himself stranded on the streets of Belfast. The situation leaves him a target for the warring forces of Catholic nationalists — who are embroiled in their own internal conflicts with the IRA and other radical insurgents — and Protestant loyalists.
In short, our boy Gary is in the shit. And '71, the hard-charging debut feature from TV director Yann Demange, makes us live every vivid, violent moment with him, the threat of death lurking at every turn. Director Paul Greengrass took a documentary approach to the same Troubles in 2002's Bloody Sunday. Demange's film, spiked by an outstanding, all-stops-out O'Connell, makes politics unnervingly personal. Too much? What else do you expect of a cinematic knockout punch that sends you reeling?