‘71 and the five best films about Northern Ireland
Some of the history’s most troubling periods have given cinema some of its finest moments. From the Vietnam War moviemakers were inspired to create Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, from the Second World War came great epics like Saving Private Ryan and The Bridge On The River Kwai, and from the recent conflicts in Iraq we’ve been given taut thrillers like Jarhead, The Hurt Locker and American Sniper. The same goes for Northern Ireland’s decades of unrest in the latter half of the 20th century and ‘71 which comes to DVD this week.
The film stars Jack O’Connell as Gary Hook, a young British soldier who finds himself accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971.
For the rest of the film we watch him struggle to find his way back, avoiding random beatings and hot pursuit from killers from both the Provisional IRA and the British Army's Military Reaction Force.
'71 doesn’t confront the issues of the conflicts that dogged Northern Ireland for most of the later years of the 20th century, but plenty of other films have. To celebrate the release of 71, we’d thought we’d round up the best films about Northern Ireland…
Before he would go on to take the Bourne franchise to new heights, director Paul Greengrass made his name with this pulsating, tension-filled retelling of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30th 1972. Starring James Nesbitt, who gives a breathtaking performance, the film well and truly put both him and Greengrass on the map and sent a shiver down the spine of everyone watched it.
The Crying Game
Neil Jordan’s 1992 psychological thriller stills holds up superbly well over 20 years on. Forest Whittaker, Miranda Richardson and Stephen Rea star in this taut thriller about the strange relationship between Fergus, an Irish Republican Army volunteer, and Jody, a kidnapped British soldier who is drawn into an IRA trap. It’s pacy, tension-filled and still very, very good.
Steve McQueen’s debut feature film took literally everything from Michael Fassbender. Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands, the leader of the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, which claimed the lives of 10 people, including him. Fassbender lost a huge amount of weight for the role, dropping to just over nine stone and surviving on a handful of berries and a small tin of sardines for weeks on end. His performance is spellbinding too, especially a 17-minute single take scene which he filmed with Liam Cunningham.
Jim Sheridan's 1997 film features a powerhouse performance from a young Daniel Day-Lewis, who stars as Danny Flynn, a troubled young man who is trying to rebuild his life after his release from prison. It’s a gritty, action-packed thriller with some thoroughly troubling scenes, but real heart as well.
We’ve recommended four very dark films, but here is some light to that shade; the story of Terri Hooley, the central figure of the music scene in Belfast during the 1970s with his record store Good Vibrations. It’s heartening, full of charm and wonder and a real feelgood film.
'71 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now.