A gripping thriller signals the arrival of Jack O’Connell (“Starred Up”) as an A-list talent. He is in almost every scene and you can’t take your eyes off him.
Gary Hook (O’Connell) is a young soldier who is sent to Belfast in 1971. He gets separated from his regiment. Most of the film is about his struggle for survival in an ordinary-looking set of streets in which residents threaten him with death and help him out, in equal measures.
Directed by TV veteran Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke, fear and alienation are the big themes exposed by O’Connell’s facial expressions. Demange has the knack of grabbing your attention from the first scene.
This is an excellent film which is curiously non-political, although the viewer is never in doubt about what’s happening.
With an ensemble supporting cast – young Corey McKinley and Richard Dormer are among those who nearly steal scenes – it’s really wonderful to see so much expressed in physical movement and reactions, enhanced by a very good script.
All the period details look accurate. You can almost smell the pubs and living rooms.
Music and camera angles enhance the sense of threat and danger. And you are left wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, as deeper questions are asked about the nature of right and wrong.
The three people I spoke with at the Stratford East Picturehouse agreed with me that it is one of the best films of 2014.
I had no expectations going in – the trailer isn’t great – but this is a terrific and engrossing movie.