On the streets of Belfast in 1971 riots were commonplace. It was an extension of The Troubles war that had begun in the 1960s and ended almost forty-years later with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement. The Troubles was named so because it is a common Irish description for ethno-nationalist. The Troubles conflict is also known around the world as The Northern Ireland conflict. It was mostly political in nature but spilled over into ethnic and sectarian. The Irish claim that religion was not the root of this conflict.
Filmmaker Yann Demange collaborates with screenwriter Gregory Burke and producer Angus Lamont to capture, in part, this turbulent era in their latest feature film '71. In 1972 close to five hundred people were murdered during The Troubles. Lamont says one needs to look at the year prior for the reason so many lost their lives. Thus the name for their film '71. Lamont shares, "It was a fluid period of British history rarely represented on screen." He adds, "This was when the IRA, loyalists, police and military were all trying to find their way around a horrific and lengthy conflict. At times not knowing which side was which. It's a chaos in history almost forgotten."
Lamont conceived the idea for the film prior to Demange's interest. Lamont recalls. "I had a friend in school who joined the army at age fifteen. He had been to Cyprus and in the Northern Ireland fighting while I was still taking exams." Lamont continues, "In my research on The Troubles, I read an account from the perspective of a Loyalist gang member. He observed a British teenage soldier crouched in a doorway, terrified, confused and crying in the middle of a sectarian riot. The young soldier had no concept of what was happening in Northern Ireland." It was this impression that the idea for '71 was born. And, a manhunt thriller was made.
Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell), a young British solider along with his military unit are called upon to help establish peace after a sectarian riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Trying to assist helpless victims affected by the conflict, Hook gets separated from his unit. Amidst extreme chaos in the city no soldiers were allowed to be running solo. The soldiers were to remain with their unit at all times. Hook's unit accidentally leaves him behind in their hast to obey orders to immediately evacuate the area.
Hook is left behind and very much alone. Clueless about the terrain and anxious to find his comrades he knows that his life is in danger. If he hopes to stay alive it is crucial that he effectively maneuver himself during the night for his cover and safety. Keeping one step ahead of violent radicals who will stop at nothing to kill a British solider. Hook is forced to play a deadly game of hide-and-seek and must trust those he does not know if they are friend or foe for help.