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Laramie Movie Scope:

British soldier left behind in Belfast battles

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2014) New British recruits in training are called to emergency duty in Belfast, Ireland. Among them, Private Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) from Derbyshire, pays a visit to his younger brother in an orphanage before deploying. Under the command of Lt Armitage (Sam Reid), the platoon receives instructions about the conflict between hostile Catholics versus loyalist Protestants with a warning: "Do not enter the Flats. Very dangerous. IRA stronghold."

Countermanding his NCOs' preference for riot gear, Lt Armitage says he intends to "reassure people" by the men wearing their berets. Kids hurl rocks and bottles when the convoy arrives; women bang the lids of garbage cans in protest of a raid by police, searching houses for guns, while the soldiers try to hold back a growing mob of angry Irish Catholics.

When a British soldier gets knocked to the ground, struck by a stone, a boy grabs his rifle and runs off. Hook and Thompson (Jack Lowden) pursue the child, get separated from the others and attacked by a couple of young men. As a woman attempts to protect them from being severely beaten, Thompson is shot in the head; the convoy retreats, leaving Hook behind.

During the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland in 1971, the British employed covert units, Military Reaction Force (MRF), for tracking down, arresting, or assassinating those suspected of being in the Irish Republican Army. In this dramatic thriller, directed by Yann Demange from Gregory Burke's screenplay: "It was a confused situation."

Chased by Sean Bannon (Barry Keoghan) and James Quinn (Killian Scott), Hook flees, eluding them when he ducks into a toilet. Later in the dark, after removing his field jacket, he wanders out into the streets. A Protestant "wee man" child rescues Gary, cursing the "Fenian bastards" he hopes to kill, taking him back ("What else are you going to do?") to his uncle, Jake Fullerton, at a pub.

"You're safe in here," assures the uncle just before a bomb explodes, knocking Hook off his feet and gashing his side. A father and daughter notice Hook lying unconscious on the sidewalk. "We can't help him," says Brigid (Charlie Murphy) to her da. "We have to," Eamon McCarthy (Richard Dormer) replies.

They carry him to their flat in Divis. In Brigid's bed, Hook lies in agony, the girl holding him down while her father, formerly a medic in the Army, sews up the wound. Recognizing him as a British soldier, they as Catholics realize the danger of their being discovered with the enemy in their care.

Instead of calling Quinn, Eamon phones Boyle (David Wilmot); but Quinn with Sean and two others are seeking to kill Boyle, part of the factional fighting occurring among the Catholics. "This is what being a gunman means," Quinn says to Sean: "Pull the trigger."

Capt Sandy Browning (Sean Harris) and Sgt Leslie Lewis (Paul Anderson) of MRF along with soldiers for backup search for Hook in hopes of cleaning up Lt Armitage's mistake. The situation gets only messier and bloodier.

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Copyright © 2015 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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