Review of 1917

1917 (2019)
Mendes truly hits the nail on the head with this wartime thriller
14 January 2020
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

April, 1917. World War One is drawing to a close, but the odds are no less tense. In the trenches, on the Western Front, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are stationed, serving in their unit. Blake finds himself summoned to General Erinmore (Colin Firth) who asks him to choose someone to accompany him on a mission to stop another unit, which includes his brother, from launching an attack, which will benefit the Germans. Selecting Schofield for a seemingly easy mission, the pair find themselves thrust into a terrifying battle for survival.

Here, as we are, in the early part of the twenty first century, living in turbulent and unpredictable times, where no one can be certain what will happen or what's around the corner, many of us will carry on our lives, sparing nowhere near as much thought as we should for the terrible sacrifices and hardships that were suffered for us to have the life we have today. And so, renowned director Sam Mendes transports us back over a century, when these events were in full swing, and sweeps us up right in the heart of the horrors of the battlefield, with a unique and trailblazing style that absorbs you in ways you can't imagine.

So, yes, more on that ground breaking style. Mendes shoots his feature in one long, continuous take for the duration of the feature, keeping us in the heart of the travails of our lead protagonists, and their inner conflicts, struggles and demons as they embark on their dangerous and uncertain mission. They amble on, stomaching the horrors of the battlefield with as much humour and resilience as they can, their relative calm punctuated by the sudden, cruel loud blast of a mortar shell or elaborately hidden enemy device. Newcomers (or, at least, relative newcomers) Chapman and MacKay in the leads deliver their roles with conviction and power, with solid support from established older co stars such as Firth and Daniel Mays.

An accomplished, seasoned (and still fairly young) director applies his talent and professionalism and has delivered one of the most surprising, absorbing and breath taking films of modern times, as well as a brilliant testament to the horrors suffered to give us our freedom. With any justice, it'll sweep the Oscars. *****
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