martedì 25 novembre 2014


Have you ever been passionate about a subject that doesn’t have anything to do with your life? 
I confess I was, many times. 
Most probably, though, the worst case of all is my huge interest for the Irish Troubles.
Don’t ask me why, but since a very young age I started reading anything about the long and tiresome internal war between catholic and protestant in Northern Ireland. I believe I read every novel and seen every movie on this subject. I also have my own ideas about the best novel written about it (Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson) and the best movie made about it (Hunger by Steve McQueen). 

A couple of weeks ago, I found out there was a new movie about the Troubles and, of course, I immediately went to see it. I didn’t expect much and so, as it is often the case when expectations are low (isn’t the same in real life?), I liked it very, very much. 
I am talking about the movie ’71 by Yann Demange
The movie is about a 24 years old British soldier, Gary Hook, who is sent to Belfast in 1971, together with a bunch of very young comrades, to keep under control the explosive situation between catholic and protestant. Clearly enough, nobody knows, even his superiors, how to deal with this strange war. During his first mission in the earth of the catholic enclave, something goes wrong and Gary and another guy are left in the hands of the “enemies”. The other guy is shot to death, but Gary manages to escape. Alone, scared, injured, the guy can count only on himself and on his lucky star to get out of that awful and nightmarish situation. Will he be able to survive?
Compared to many movies about the Troubles, this is a very original one. First of all, this is not about a catholic guy but about a British soldier (very rare!) and, secondly, it is a real thriller (unique!). Forget about all the movies trying to explain why this war started, or movies about the real story of some catholic “martyr”. This is a pursuit movie, where the guy is chased from the beginning until the end and you, as spectator, jump on your seat every two seconds because you’re too scared or too agitated to watch another scene.
Catholic and protestant are put on the same level, here. The movie is quite smart in elucidating complex situations with simple shortcuts: yes, it is a bad war, yes, there are bastards on both sides, yes, instead of solving it, there were people willing to make it worse, and yes, too many families have been uselessly devastated. I have to say that this approach was very refreshing and at the same time even more powerful in dragging you in this unbelievable hell. 

Yann Demange, the film-maker behind this little gem, is – weirdly enough - a French chap, but he has a very British upbringing (he directed, among other things, the first season of the TV series Criminal Justice with Ben Whishaw). His mise-en-scène is beautiful, and the rhythm of the movie impeccable. The credit for such a great result surely goes also to the actor who plays Gary: British Jack O’Connell, already appreciated in Starred Up by David MacKenzie and now about to enter stardom as the main character of new Angelina Jolie’s movie, Unbroken. O'Connell carries the entire movie on his shoulders in a very convincing way. His desperate face mixed with his stubborn willing to survive win the audience’s attention and create an immediate and total identification. You suffer for him and with him from the beginning till the end, and you want him to be saved, at every cost!
In the distance, Belfast and his fires shine of a new light.
All of a sudden, I have a new film in my top five of best movies about the Irish Troubles!

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