Review: ’71

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‘ 71 is the story of a young British soldier accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Disoriented and unable to tell friend from foe, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorienting, alien and deadly landscape. In many ways ’71 that simple synopsis doesn’t give the film enough credit.

’71 is one of the most tension filled films I have watched in a long time. At the sold out screening I attended there was a man literally on the edge of his seat, others watched through fingers as the final act left the audience on an absolute knife-edge. I really don’t want to give too much away about the film because to go into detail may tip into unintentionally into spoiler territory.

The director, Yann Demange, does a wonderful job of heightening the tension from the moment Private Hook (Jack O’Connell) steps onto the Belfast streets for the first time until the film’s climax. O’Connell also gives a great performance as the fresh-faced soldier sent to Belfast with no knowledge of the world he is entering and no understanding of the conflict he is thrown into. Asked by a child on the streets if he is Catholic or Protestant Hook replies ‘I dunno’ in an almost confused manner highlighting his lack of understanding of this vital question in seventies Belfast.

The other welcoming aspect of this film is that unlike other ‘Troubles’ films it doesn’t appear to pick a side in the conflict. All sides of the equation show their good and bad characteristics, even those there to keep peace are seen to dip into creating further darkness. By not engaging in the politics too deeply it would be completely feasible to lift this story and place it in modern-day Afghanistan or other conflict areas and still have the same tension packed results.

This is not a standard ‘Troubles in Northern Ireland’ film. This is a story of survival in conflict, this is a story of trust and this is a story that highlights all that is good and equally all that is bad within our own natures.

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The return to Dogma

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This is my first blog post in a while. There are lots of reasons for this, finding time to write has been a struggle but when I finally did there were no words.

It didn’t matter what I tried to write no words came . Recently I wanted to write a piece on my favourite films to date this year and I struggled  to articulate it. So I made a conscious decision to take a break from trying.

Today changed that. Via Twitter (O how I love Twitter) I discovered that Dogma is to be shown this weekend on Film 4 here in the UK. When I read that something stirred. You see Dogma and I have history.

On the films initial release I received several chain emails (remember those) telling me all that was wrong theologically wrong with Dogma. Major gripes included the profanity in the film, God depicted as a woman, the glorification of abortion,  the list went on.

Also on those emails was a final line asking me to forward the email to 5 more ‘true believers’  and that if I ‘truly loved Jesus’ there would be no shame in doing so. NOT MANIPULATIVE AT ALL! Apart from anything this final guilt filled line contained  quite possibly more bad theology than anything  contained in the film.

I didn’t forward a single one. However I did reply. I replied with 4 simple words ‘Have you watched it?’.

Non response was the main reply to my inquiry but several did pop back asking  why I would even consider this? Did I not read the email at all?? Did I really love the Lord?

The rights and wrongs of Dogma’s theology were not my point in making that response to people. What I wanted to put across was that I couldn’t get into a discussion with anyone on a film if I haven’t watched.

Taking a stance on anything without engaging with it, regardless of art form or topic, is wrong.

For the record I enjoyed Dogma. It does not contain  perfect theology throughout, however very few films do. Also what or who does have a 100% record in their theology I certainly don’t.

What Dogma does provide are some great moments of truth.

For example when Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) sits down with Metatron (played by the always brilliant Alan Rickman) and questions why God would call her to help stop the angels Loki and Bartelby re-entering heaven she is reassured that her 9-5 as an abortion clinic worker holds no restriction on God’s plan. Metatron tell her “Noah was a drunk. Look what he accomplished. And no one’s even asking you to build an ark. All you have to do is go to New Jersey, and visit a small church on a very important day. “

The point being that no one is off-limits to being used by God. It’s not Bethany’s job  that brings the call its her heritage.

I may watch Dogma this weekend I may not. Overall I am grateful that it exists. It starts conversations regardless of your view on it. When I had the idea for this blog it was one of the films that came to mind when considering films and faith.

Above all else I’m grateful for Dogma today as it helped me start writing again.