“They’re walking into a trap. Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you fail, it will be a massacre.”
Films about World War 1 are not often made when compared to World War 2 or Vietnam. There have been a few great WW1 films. All Quiet on the Western Front being an absolute favorite of mine. Western Front preys on your emotions and genuinely horrifies you. I would know…I was 5 when I first saw it, and the ending has lived with me since. This year, 1917 does what so many war films have done in the past, and amplifies it 100 times more. Following the story of Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield, 1917 provides a look at the nightmare that was WW1, as these two soldiers must reach fellow British battalions who are looking to attack retreating Germans. However, due to the intel, the Germans are not retreating, but setting a trap for the British. Now these two soldiers must fight against the elements, and surrounding German soldiers, in order to deliver this crucial message. I’ll tell you this, to start off the review, 1917 is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece.
The story begins on April 6th 1917, which may be a coincidence, but is actually the day when the United States entered into WW1. From the moment 1917 starts, you’re up against a ticking clock. There’s not much to put you at ease at the beginning, which flows perfectly with what this film entails. It throws you into this situation with nothing to really preface the hellish moments you’re about to endure. You travel along with these two Lance Corporals who are brilliantly played by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay. Chapman is probably the one to who has the most notoriety leading up to 1917 after playing Tommen Baratheon in Game of Thrones. But even with a hit show under his belt, I wouldn’t say that Chapman is particularly well-known. 1917 is held together by two rather obscure actors, which is something that doesn’t happen too often. We have several well-established actors throughout the film, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong. However, they are just supporting characters next to Chapman and MacKay. These two young men may not have the plethora of experience, but you immediately abandoned the idea that their inexperience may be a deterring factor for this film. Their courage and heroism is blatant for all to see, but 1917 never suffers from being sappy or unrealistic. A typical weakness for some dramatic films.
Though Chapman and MacKay’s give us some of the best performances of the year, it’s the people behind the camera that make 1917 a true cinematic experience. To put it bluntly, this film is exquisitely shot. As it aims to show the story in one continuous shot, 1917 is bordering on flawless. Director, Sam Mendes, and cinematographer, Roger Deakins, aim to capture what Alejandro G. Iñarritu did in Birdman, or what Alfred Hitchcock did with Rope, by creating the one-take look for the entire film. However, unlike Birdman and Rope’s play-like tone, 1917 incorporates the one-take look to achieve a fast-paced war film that prevents you from being taken out of the experience. 1917 grabs hold of your senses, and puts you right on the frontlines with these soldiers. You experience what they experience, and feel what they feel. 1917 is a pure, outstanding, achievement in cinema.
I am at a loss for words as I try to eloquently put my love for this movie into a cohesive thought. Truth be told, you don’t watch 1917, you experience it. Right from the opening scene, the hard work, and care, that went into making this film, is obvious. From the acting, to Mendes’ direction, from the cinematography to the script, everything about this film is absolute perfection. 1917 is a must see film that is one of the best, if not the best, of 2019.
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George Mackay, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Colin Firth