Movie draws in history buffs

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History is rarely portrayed from the perspective of both sides.

However, “’71” tells the story of English soldiers, Irish freedom fighters and civilians caught in Northern Ireland’s struggle for independence. The film follows the story of one British soldier who becomes separated from his unit during the Troubles, a period of civil unrest in Northern Ireland that lasted from 1968-1998. This violent period involved terrorist groups fighting for or against independence from the United Kingdom. Political beliefs aligned along religious differences further deepened the already divisive conflict.

Gary Hook is a young man, not much older than most college students. A new recruit in the British army, little has prepared him for the violence he faces when he is sent to Belfast. After being left behind in a riot, he becomes embroiled in a government cover up and must evade both shady British allies and Irish terrorists. Meanwhile, various splits in the Irish Republican Army have developed as violent young radicals threaten to usurp their superiors and plunge Belfast into even worse violence.

The opposing factions within the IRA pursue the missing soldier, with one side hoping to save him and thus stop the violence and the other trying only to kill him. “’71” does a masterful job of telling human stories in a violent civil war. The blame is not squarely placed on either side, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions about this complex and divisive conflict.

Extraordinarily tense and suspenseful, it is a film that not only provokes contemplative reflection but also engages the viewer in a deeply engrossing way. The only real distractions are the indecipherable accents that lead to missed dialogue, although that is perhaps due to my untrained American ear.