Behind Enemy Lines 1971
'71 Film Review
Raw and unflinching, this directorial debut transcends its limited budget and scale to deliver a suitably atmospheric snapshot of the conflict in Belfast, using it as a tense backdrop for high concept thrills.When fresh new soldier Gary Hook gets shipped out to Northern Ireland, he has no idea what to expect and is forced to learn to survive the hard way when a street protest turns into a riot and he's left behind by his unit. Caught on the wrong side of town, where his uniform - and accent - will be a death sentence, he keeps moving, not knowing who to trust in a world of frightened civilians, armed children and corrupt fighters - on both sides. Director Yann Demange makes a striking debut here with '71, superbly infusing behind enemy lines thrills with a genuine, palpably authentic setting. Painting in keenly differentiated shades of grey, he uses The Troubles to effortlessly crank up the tension, throwing a new generation of audience members and actors alike) into the height of the conflict.It's easy to forget that back then Belfast was a city filled with confusion, cynicism, defensiveness and bloody violence simply waiting to kick off. There's strong and remarkably stylish direction, an authentic period setting, and even a few touching socio-political reflections along the way (the tough Ulster Loyalist kid sums it all up when he comments on the protagonist's lack of religious definition one way or another); not to mention some committed performances. Although it's Starred Up's Jack O'Connell that takes the lead here, cementing his position as an impressive fresh new Brit actor to keep an eye on. The result is a film that delivers a well-defined high-concept idea upon which to hang its thriller tale, making it an impressive offering indeed.
Blu-ray Picture Quality’71 comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Whilst a limited budget UK production, the intentional style of the piece is designed to reflect the period setting, and therefore the film looks suitably authentic and gritty – much more so than the recent, overly-glossy, The Imitation Game, for example.
Deliberately gritty and stripped-down in terms of muted colour palette, ’71 looks perfectly authentic.
Detail is generally very good despite the inherent restrictions, with strong close-up observations on faces, and decent mid-range shots that help bring the claustrophobic streets to life, whilst he wider framed images take in the scope of the riots and rat-mazes. The colour scheme has been stripped back to basics, but skin tones are still healthy, clothing uniforms suitably worn and of-the-times, and black levels strong and solid, allowing for decent shadow detail. Although those with keen eyes might spot a few minor anomalies around the edges, this low budget piece is largely rendered without too many problematic issues interfering with your enjoyment of the piece.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track provides a welcome accompaniment to the proceedings, thrumming with intensity where required, and keeping up the tension for the suitably efficient runtime, with a strong score to carry the piece.
Tense and intense, the audio does a pretty damn good job as well.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely dominating the fronts and centre channels where necessary during the proceedings, whilst effects – from the increasing clamour of the protests that kick off into full-blown riots, to the thunder of the gunshots and explosions, rattling the already-wartorn 70s Belfast setting. Even the quieter touches bloom with subtle intensity and atmospheric claustrophobia. The score, as first noted, provides the backbone to the rest of the piece and overall this is a strong offering.
Blu-ray ExtrasAll we get are a bunch of Interview soundbites with the Director, Star and Writer, as well as some trailers. Disappointing indeed.
'71 Blu-ray Verdict
Tense and intense, this small-scale Brit thriller combines a high concept with a suitably murky setting and delivers the goods.
'71 comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Studiocanal who do a stand-up job with the presentation, affording us very good video and audio that is probably only held back from being regarded as demo worthy because of the inherent limitations of the production itself. Only a smattering of extras adorn the disc, but it's otherwise a decent purchase for fans of the film wishing to add it to their collection and a recommended rental for those keen on checking out an impressive and efficient Brit thriller.
You can buy '71 on Blu-ray here
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