Roadside Attractions and Black Label Media have acquired U.S. rights to Yann Demange‘s ’71, a Belfast-set period thriller that everyone was talking about during the Berlin Film festival (and which I reviewed on 2.7.14). But Roadside reportedly plans to open it sometime in 2015, presumably because it doesn’t believe it’s strong enough to compete as a summer counter-programmer or award-season contender. Which seems odd as there’s nothing opaque or arty-farty about ’71 — it’s a chase thriller and a suspense film start to finish.
Excerpts from my review, titled “On The Trail of Johnny McQueen“:
“In some ways reminiscent of Paul Greengrass‘s Bloody Sunday, this is a gripping, fast-paced thriller about a young and inexperienced British soldier named Gary (Jack O’Connell) who gets separated from his unit during a violent confrontation with an angry Catholic mob, and before you know it he’s more or less James Mason in Odd Man Out — a marked man behind enemy lines, weak and bleeding and trying like hell not to get plugged by IRA assassins, and forced to depend on the unlikely kindness of strangers.
“But Gary’s odyssey isn’t just about hiding out and dodging capture with the help of this and that Good Samaritan (including a spirited young boy and a kindly Catholic doctor and his wife who risk brutal reprisals from the IRA by saving his life). There’s also a double-agent/undercover game going on that pushes tensions to the brink.
“The emphasis is on menace and fear and thrills and adrenaline. It’s not trying for the dreamy, melancholy fatalism of Carol Reed’s 1947 classic. There’s no pulsing undercurrent except for similarities and associations with other films about the ‘troubles.’ But ’71 delivers exceptional verisimilitude and throttling realism.”