Almost the perfect definition of British ‘peacekeeping’ tactics in Northern Ireland. Or much of state sponsored terrorism anywhere in the globe. Sadly, not a line I can claim as my own, though I suspect it will be one I’ll reach for regularly from here in. It made its way straight into my top five favourite film quotes this weekend after flipping forward from the calm but bitter gob of Richard Dormer’s do-gooder character in ’71.
I didn’t expect to get caught up in a stampede towards a film related to The Troubles; they’re not exactly renowned for their entertainment value. Nor did I anticipate being one half of the entire audience in the opening week of the film’s release. Normally this would be something to rejoice about, but I’m hoping the poster of a tooled up teenager in a British Army uniform patrolling a Belfast street, won’t kill off viewer interest.
Apart from some brief and crude context setting, this could be set in any conflict zone. The finer political details are merely a backdrop to this thrilling assault course that criss-crosses enemy lines over a single night in Belfast. It follows the nail-biting scrapes encountered by a new wet-behind-the-rifle recruit (Jack O’Connell) after getting left behind by his squad as they leg it from a hairy battle with the locals.
Few words are divvied out to O’Connell, so it’s testament to his presence that he pulls off the rare mix of brawn, vulnerability, and bewilderment on which the guts of the film hangs, so compellingly.
Good Vibrations wore The Troubles lightly a few years back (again with the underrated Dormer at its centre). Could we finally be rounding the corner into the possibility of a broader palette of film action in which the politics are relegated to background status? Ulster says Yes. Please.
One of the best films of the year.