1917 – Movie Review

Released: 2020 (UK)
Director: Sam Mendes
Distributor: eOne (UK)
Film Website: https://www.1917.movie/?redirect=off
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Genre: War, Drama
Film Rating: 15
Review Score: 5/5

REVIEW: SPOILER-FREE

1917 is an epic war film directed, co-written and produced by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Spectre) that chronicles the story of two young British soldiers during World War 1 who are sent on a mission behind enemy lines to deliver a message. The message warns of an ambush during a skirmish soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich.

The premise of the movie is played out in real time, courtesy of the sublime cinematography from the ever-brilliant Roger Deakins, whose credits include The Shawshank RedemptionSkyfall and Blade Runner 2049. Designed to look like one continuous shot, we are drawn in to the perilous journey the two men must undertake and we truly feel like we are with them. It’s a gorgeous cinematic achievement; incredibly immersive and downright terrifying at times.

The two leads, played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, are mesmerising as we watch every breath they take, every path they tread, every decision they must make and every obstacle they overcome. MacKay is especially fantastic, and I don’t doubt we’ll be seeing more of him in the near future. A performance for the ages. Bolstered by a very strong supporting cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Colin Firth, 1917 never lets up on its performances, with nobody phoning it in and there’s not a second of screen-time wasted.

1917 manages to capture the horror of trench warfare with very little (if any) CGI, and right from the start there’s a rawness and urgency that doesn’t let up during the film’s two hour runtime. Danger could be lurking around every corner, and you truly feel that in every frame. I found myself pausing for breath during the quieter moments; my heart pounding with fear and exhilaration during the intense action sequences. Rotting corpses of both humans and animals alike litter the ground they walk on.

This is not an all-out action movie, however, and those expecting the next Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down may be disappointed. Gunplay is used sparingly in 1917, to great effect. It reminded me of the sporadic use of violence in Joker; to allow it to be all the more intense and shocking when it is used. This is purely about the journey the characters take, with elements of survival sprinkled throughout.

Everything about 1917 combines flawlessly, from its excellent cast to its brooding and nail-biting soundtrack provided by Thomas Newman, who had worked on Skyfall, Spectre, and Finding Nemo. The camera-work as I’ve already mentioned makes you, the viewer, feel like the third man on the mission with them, and the levels of realism on display are unparalleled. That’s about as much as I can say about the movie without spoiling it. Calling it just a movie almost does 1917 a disservice. It’s a pulse-pounding, nerve-shredding, hard-hitting and atmospheric experience that has to be seen to be believed.

At the time of writing, we are in the midst of awards season, and this film seems to have dominated so far. Winning Best Picture – Drama and Best Director at the recent Golden Globes ceremony, nominated for nine awards at the upcoming BAFTA’s and with the Oscars just around the corner, the praise for this film has only just begun and will not stop for some time to come yet.

Only eleven days into 2020 and 1917 has cemented itself as my favourite film of the year, and it may turn out to be the best the year has to offer. “Time is the enemy,” states the film’s tagline. It absolutely is. Go and see this in an IMAX theater before it disappears. It’s a must see, and demands to be viewed on the biggest screen possible. Don’t let this one pass you by.

Review by Jack Merry

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