1917

★★★★★

DIRECTOR: sam mendes (american beauty, skyfall)
STARRING: george mackay, dean-charles chapman, colin firth, and benedict cumberbatch

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Two young British soldiers during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldiers' brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.

When it comes to war films we have kinda seen it all from every angle and perspective. I adored Dunkirk by the wondrous Christopher Nolan. In my humble opinion it's one of the best films of the past decade and the best war film since Saving Private Ryan. But then 1917 came along. And blew all the others out of the water. It will floor you. And at the beginning of a new decade we have one of its best films. 

 

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield and Blake are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers--Blake's own brother among them.

 

1917 is an unrelenting experience from start to finish. It beds you down into the trenches of WW1 like no film has done before. It will leave you breathless, at times peeking through your fingers, and perched on the very edge of your seat. The film is wonderfully paced, giving you some breathing space just when you need it. 

 

Not only is it a terrifically engaging story, but a technical marvel told in one unbroken shot. When I first heard that the camera doesn’t cut I thought that it was a bit of a gimmick. But it’s not, it adds so much to the telling of the story, to building tension, and to engaging you in the story. The temptation could have been to not be creative with the cinematography, but cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers a gloriously beautiful film. 

 

I’ve seen some critiques that the 1917 doesn’t show the horror of war and it doesn’t allow you to emotionally connect with the characters because of its pacing. I completely disagree. In 1917 we see the indiscriminate horror and violence of war at close hand; even inflicted on our two main characters. We see it in the rotting corpses, the devastated city and surrounding countryside, and we see it in the civilian population. It’s completely arresting. 

 

I think some critics believe that you need heavy exposition, a whole lot of talking, to develop character and thus create an emotional connection with those characters. You really don’t. Circumstances within the story, the situation that the characters find themselves in, can help us to connect. And that’s the avenue 1917 wants to take us down and you are absolutely riveted to the screen from start to finish willing Schofield and Blake on, hoping beyond hope that they’ll complete their mission. 

 

Even though their a big names in here such as Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and Mark Strong as well as a huge array of Britain’s finest, this film belongs to George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman. They are brilliant and hold your attention fast within the ever increasing pace of the film. 

 

1917 has to be the front runner for every gong come award season. The best war film since Saving Private Ryan and will go down as one of the best films of this new decade. Don't wait. See it on the biggest screen you can possibly find. 

★★★★★

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