Subject: [48 Hills] ’71, a film about The Troubles in Ireland:
Chronicle Movie Critic Blows It Again
Date: 2015-03-18 09:05
From: Marc Norton <email@example.com>
’71, A FILM ABOUT THE TROUBLES IN IRELAND
48 HILLS 
March 17, 2015
COPYRIGHT © 2015 MARC NORTON
I have learned over the years that when Mick LaSalle, the _San Francisco
Chronicle_ movie, trashes a political movie, it is as likely as not for
its politics, rather than for its cinematic quality. Such is the case
with his Friday, March 13 review  of ’71.
’71 is the story of a young British soldier named Gary Hook, played by
JACK O’CONNELL, thrown into the Irish insurgency against colonial
occupation in the early 1970s. The movie grabs you right from the
beginning shots of the Brits’ training, reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s
PLATOON. It doesn’t let go or let up for an instant. The film’s point of
view is summed up midway through the action when a former army medic
tells the wounded Hook, “They don’t care about you, to them, you are
just a piece of meat.”
To critic LaSalle, who doesn’t even acknowledge the fact of the British
occupation of Ireland, the film is merely a “depressing immersion into
Irish history,” and is all about some unexplainable conflict between
Catholics and Protestants.
“How anyone can tell the difference between an Irish Protestant and an
Irish Catholic – without striking up a conversation about
transubstantiation and the intercession of saints – is a mystery to
me,” sarcastically comments LaSalle. [Note: This sentence, which
appeared in the original print edition of LaSalle’s review, was edited
out of the online version.]
Yet the early scenes of mass opposition to the British soldiery clearly
set the stage. Few films can match the realism that director YANN
DEMANGE creates in these shots – from the kids throwing rocks at the
soldiers, the women banging trash can lids on the ground as the soldiers
enter the insurgent neighborhood, the resulting in-your-face
confrontation between the soldiers and an outraged Irish crowd, to the
shot that kills Hook’s partner and puts him on the run.
The dramatic arc of the movie has Hook, separated from his unit, trying
to reach the safety of his barracks, while being pursued by a unit of
the Irish Republican Army. Along the way he encounters a mix of people,
including Protestant loyalists and Catholics sympathetic to his plight.
Unknown to Hook, he finds himself caught up in a conflict between the
old-guard IRA leadership and a younger group eager to use their guns. We
also witness divisions within the British occupying forces, particularly
between the army and a group of plainclothes counter-intelligence
Perhaps most telling, the film convincingly portrays the attempts by the
British counter-intelligence agents to fan the flames of division within
the IRA, in order to divide the rebels and conquer the insurgency. Note
that this is 1971, when the same kind of brutal counter-intelligence
tactics were being employed in the U.S. by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, a
program that became known to the public as COINTELPRO.
All this must have hit LaSalle too close to home. To LaSalle, “the movie
is all about a guy trying to be inconspicuous in Army boots.” LaSalle’s
zingers include the comment that “Calling a taxi is out of the
question.” Apparently LaSalle has Belfast confused with New York.
LaSalle also complains about a scene where “a bomb goes off in a public
space” – a Protestant loyalist bar – “but it’s not completely clear
who put it there.” Despite some deliberate ambiguity, it is manifestly
clear that the explosion was not the work of the IRA, a point that is
lost on LaSalle. “It’s not even 100 percent clear who gets blown up,”
says LaSalle, despite an extended scene of Hook trying to rescue a young
Protestant kid severely wounded in the explosion, a kid who had tried to
rescue Hook from his IRA pursuers.
The film does not end with the resolution of Hook’s flight in Belfast,
but back in Britain, where the “Troubles” in Ireland really began.
LaSalle ends his review with the suggestion that “one could go an entire
lifetime” without ever “being in the mood” to see this film.
’71 is not for the faint of heart. But for those who want to see a
genuine and dramatic portrayal of the consequences of British
colonialism in the modern era, one would be hard put to do better.
The film is currently scheduled to end its short run in San Francisco
today, ironically St. Patrick’s Day. It will be gone from the Bay Area
after Thursday. Unfortunately, LaSalle will still be writing snotty
movie reviews for a long time to come.
UPDATE: The Century San Francisco has extended the run for ’71 through
Thursday, March 19.
_Marc Norton’s website is http://www.MarcNorton.us ._