FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

’71, a Film About The Troubles in Ireland

I have learned over the years that when Mick LaSalle, the San Francisco Chronicle movie critic, trashes a political movie, it is as likely as not for its politics, rather than for its cinematic quality. Such is the case with his Friday, March 13 review of ’71.

’71 is the story of a young British soldier named Gary Hook, played by Jack O’Connell, thrown into the Irish insurgency against colonial occupation in the early 1970s. The movie grabs you right from the beginning shots of the Brits’ training, reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s Platoon. It doesn’t let go or let up for an instant. The film’s point of view is summed up midway through the action when a former army medic tells the wounded Hook, “They don’t care about you, to them, you are just a piece of meat.”

To critic LaSalle, who doesn’t even acknowledge the fact of the British occupation of Ireland, the film is merely a “depressing immersion into Irish history,” and is all about some unexplainable conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

unnamed

“How anyone can tell the difference between an Irish Protestant and an Irish Catholic – without striking up a conversation about transubstantiation and the intercession of saints – is a mystery to me,” sarcastically comments LaSalle. [Note: This sentence, which appeared in the original print edition of LaSalle’s review, was edited out of the online version.]

Yet the early scenes of mass opposition to the British soldiery clearly set the stage. Few films can match the realism that director Yann Demange creates in these shots – from the kids throwing rocks at the soldiers, the women banging trash can lids on the ground as the soldiers enter the insurgent neighborhood, the resulting in-your-face confrontation between the soldiers and an outraged Irish crowd, to the shot that kills Hook’s partner and puts him on the run.

The dramatic arc of the movie has Hook, separated from his unit, trying to reach the safety of his barracks, while being pursued by a unit of the Irish Republican Army. Along the way he encounters a mix of people, including Protestant loyalists and Catholics sympathetic to his plight.

Unknown to Hook, he finds himself caught up in a conflict between the old-guard IRA leadership and a younger group eager to use their guns. We also witness divisions within the British occupying forces, particularly between the army and a group of plainclothes counter-intelligence agents.

Perhaps most telling, the film convincingly portrays the attempts by the British counter-intelligence agents to fan the flames of division within the IRA, in order to divide the rebels and conquer the insurgency. Note that this is 1971, when the same kind of brutal counter-intelligence tactics were being employed in the U.S. by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, a program that became known to the public as COINTELPRO.

All this must have hit LaSalle too close to home. To LaSalle, “the movie is all about a guy trying to be inconspicuous in Army boots.” LaSalle’s zingers include the comment that “Calling a taxi is out of the question.” Apparently LaSalle has Belfast confused with New York.

LaSalle also complains about a scene where “a bomb goes off in a public space” – a Protestant loyalist bar – “but it’s not completely clear who put it there.” Despite some deliberate ambiguity, it is manifestly clear that the explosion was not the work of the IRA, a point that is lost on LaSalle. “It’s not even 100 percent clear who gets blown up,” says LaSalle, despite an extended scene of Hook trying to rescue a young Protestant kid severely wounded in the explosion, a kid who had tried to rescue Hook from his IRA pursuers.

The film does not end with the resolution of Hook’s flight in Belfast, but back in Britain, where the “Troubles” in Ireland really began. LaSalle ends his review with the suggestion that “one could go an entire lifetime” without ever “being in the mood” to see this film.

’71 is not for the faint of heart. But for those who want to see a genuine and dramatic portrayal of the consequences of British colonialism in the modern era, one would be hard put to do better.

The film is currently scheduled to end its short run in San Francisco today, ironically St. Patrick’s Day. It will be gone from the Bay Area after Thursday. Unfortunately, LaSalle will still be writing snotty movie reviews for a long time to come.

UPDATE: The Century San Francisco has extended the run for ’71 through Thursday, March 19.

Marc Norton’s website is www.MarcNorton.us.

Copyright © 2015 Marc Norton.

This article first appeared in “48 Hills.”

More articles by:

Marc Norton’s website is www.MarcNorton.us.

January 24, 2019
David Rosen
Roe: 47 Years and Counting
Joseph Essertier
Warmongering Over Warmbier: US Hypocrisy and a Double Standard on North Korea
Glenn Sacks
L.A. Teachers Strike Dispatch #9: What We Won
M. G. Piety
An Essay on Grief
Karen J. Greenberg
Creating a Global Lost Generation
Jesse Jackson
America Has Lost Its Common Sense
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Rebranding Canada’s Solitary Confinement Policy Doesn’t Change What It Is
Ramzy Baroud
False ‘Victories’: Is the PA Using the ‘State of Palestine’ to Remain in Power?
Binoy Kampmark
Eyeing the White House: the Democratic Field
Russell Mokhiber
Single Payer Gold Standard HR 676 Rest in Peace
David Swanson
The World Will End in Fire
David Macaray
Celebrity Bullshit
Dean Baker
How Worried Should We be If China’s Growth Rate Slows to 6.4%?
Wim Laven
What Makes America Great?
January 23, 2019
Paul Street
Time for the U.S. Yellow Vests
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail