Take a Drink: for little kids- beware those little shits
Take a Drink: for a nice Irish pint
Take Two: if a kid’s drinking it
Take a Drink: for the kindness of strangers
Take a Drink: for backroom planning
Take a Drink: when violence strikes unexpectedly and furiously
Do a Shot: when Hell visits Belfast
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Even with Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken underwhelming pratically everybody, you can’t blame that on star Jack O’Connell, and neither does it diminish the monster year he’s had. He exploded onto the scene like a supernova with Starred Up, and Unbroken certainly will introduce him to a more mainstream audience, but in between he turned into another tour de force performance that folks Stateside will get to see early next year.
Yes, I’m referring to The Ed Helms Story
Or… ’71. O’Connell stars as a fresh-faced British soldier sent to Northern Ireland during the heart of The Troubles, when Catholic and Protestant sectionalism exploded into Syria-levels of urban warfare. When he gets separated from his unit when a routine mission goes to hell, he’s forced to navigate an unfamiliar city where practically everyone wants him dead.
This is one of the few finest action films of the year. Rookie director Yann Demange has a natural talent for creating action scenes that feel incredibly immersive and immediate, like Paul Greengrass if he stopped hiring cameramen from that palsy charity.
Michael J. Fox’s camerawork has been slipping as of late…
He and DP Tat Radcliffe stage some absolutely bravura handheld long takes, choreographed like ballet but utterly realistic, which are all the more powerful because they often strike like lightning out of a clear blue sky. Violence lurks around every corner, creating a paranoid state of mind that mirrors O’Connell’s. However, the only hope he has and aid he receives is from the kindness of strangers from both sides, and Demange does a great job emphasizing not just the absolute hell that can emerge from ideology-driven conflicts, but also the humanity that persists in the face of them.
Acting-wise, Corey McKinley straight up steals the movie for about 15 minutes, playing a fearless stout-swilling little hardass who saves O’Connell’s bacon and beans at one point, but it’s O’Connell’s movie and he delivers. His soldier is almost another vision of how his prematurely hardened con from Starred Up could have ended up if his life had broken a different direction.
He’s a poor orphan, so it’s basically prison or the army.
He captures our empathy with a minimum of effort, then tortures us with it as we witness his nice guy persona warp under the strain of this nightmare experience. The film ends with a touch of hope, but an earlier scene of previously unwitnessed aggression adds an obsidian lining, if you will. Something small but significant’s broken inside him.
A last raise of the glass to frequent Steven Soderbergh collaborator David Holmes’s Hans Zimmer-lite score, which is the perfect propulsive accompaniment to the action.
O’Connell does a great job adding dimension to his character, but a little more on-page development would have been good before he entered the fray- he’s still a bit of a cipher. Also, the late twist with the Military Reaction Force feels more writerly than realistic, and isn’t terribly surprising as a result.
’71 is another feather in rising star Jack O’Connell’s cap, and an incredible action debut for exciting new director Yann Demange.