Review of '1917'

1917.jpg It is the first world war, April 6th, 1917. With communications down two British soldiers Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are asked to travel into enemy territory to deliver orders to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is commanding Allied troops nine miles away. The orders command the Colonel to cancel an offensive planned for the next day as they have learned the offensive is a trap laid by the Germans that will likely result in the needless deaths of thousands of men. The mission has a particular urgency for Blake as his older brother is stationed with the Colonel's troops. Blake and Schofield quickly make their way across no man's land then behind enemy lines where fate seems determined to keep them from succeeding in their mission.

This is an incredible film. It looks absolutely amazing with the entire film a “one take” which absolutely draws the viewer into the experience like no other film I have ever seen. Not only that, it looks absolutely real - a gritty, violent reality that pulls no punches. We are really there with the two soldiers as they overcome obstacle after obstacle to accomplish their goal no matter what the personal cost but also with their confusion and horror of what they witness along the way. No expense is spared to convey a sense of what it must have been like to be a soldier at that time.

It is the impetus of the time constraints that drive the action relentlessly forward bringing the men closer and closer to sheer desperation. I felt that often this focus on time meant we unsatisfactorily moved from one sequence to the next before the emotions had entirely played out, leaving a character simply standing there as we turn away to continue the story. This pacing also means that there are occasional slow sequences but film-makers go out of their way to make the scenery we pass by as utterly realistic and, to be honest, interesting as possible even as we are simply walking through it…there is always something to look at in this war-ravaged landscape and frequently the view is of another dead solider or animal. As might be expected there is also the occasional tendency towards melodrama which is typical of war films but here it provides a bit of a break from the otherwise relentless horror.

George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are perfectly cast as the young, naive soldiers coming to grips with the horror that surrounds them yet determined to success in their mission. There are a few surprise cameos here, notably Benedict Cumberbatch as the errant colonel who is on the screen for all of 4 minutes, tops, and Colin Firth as General Erinmore.

I could not keep my eyes off the screen so drawn into what I was seeing. “1917” is a masterpiece of modern film making. Truly stunning.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-08-25

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Studio: DreamWorks

Year: 2019

Length: 119 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Sam Mendes: