A young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a terrifying riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. 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.
Gary Hook was originally intended to have come from Lancashire but, at Jack O'Connell's request, the script was rewritten so the character came from his birthplace of Derby, Derbyshire. See more »
The early shot in the film showing Jack O'Connell on the ferry to Belfast is actually on a River Mersey ferry sailing to Liverpool. See more »
[after Lt. Armitage told him about Sergeant Leslie Lewis attempt to kill Gary Hook]
It was a confused situation. In these circumstances, what you saw, what you think you saw, can be a very different thing to what actually happened. Do you understand?
Do you understand?
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Tracking a young British soldier who fights for his life after being stranded by his unit on the vicious streets of Belfast, this 1971-set thriller is as grubby, tense and frenetic as the Northern Ireland conflict itself. Debutant Yann Demange does a sterling job in the director's chair, bringing a Paul Greengrass-esque urgency to the action with a combination of regular close-up shots and (not-too-shaky) hand-held camera work. Demange wisely opts for a quality over quantity approach to the brutal violence too, resulting in a few impactful events of savagery and gore that enhance the tension and dread rather than exploit it. Occurring over one night only, Demange working from Gregory Burke's sparing, taut script wrings suspense from moments as small as an uncomfortable conversation in a bar, and as big as a cat-and-mouse set piece in an apartment complex or the dazed aftermath of an explosion. It's not all smooth sailing though. The relatively unexplained bookending scenes are a tad cheesy and add little, whilst the bulk of the supporting characters are rarely more than stereotypes, albeit played with gusto. But this movie unmistakably belongs to lead actor, and recent BAFTA Rising Star winner, Jack O'Connell. His Private Gary Hook is resilient yet fragile, strong-willed yet frightened, making him a relatable everyman who will do anything to stay alive. It's not a film you could call "fun", but it's a riveting watch that rewards those willing to be immersed in its gritty and uncompromising survival story.
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