Two British soldiers embark on a dangerous mission to save 1,600 men from certain doom during World War I.
This film is rated MA15+. Strong war themes.
[For the full review (and others like this) go to Reeldialogue.com]
The combination of talents like director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049) should make all fans of film sit up and take notice. A story that is based in the stories from Mendes grandfather and using the one-shot formatting of Deakins will draw fans to 1917. The expectation is high for this project and it manages to deliver on a scale that will leave audiences in awe as the credits roll.
Even with names like Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth and Mark Strong in the title credits, this is a personal and immersive journey of two young British Corporals on 6 April, 1917. Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are asked to go on an impossible mission across the Hindenburg Line to stop the Operation Alberich. An assault that is being undertaken to take advantage of an apparent German retreat. Corporal Blake is motivated to get this message through to the front line because his brother is amongst the soldiers slated for this catastrophic attack.
The two men must cross the battlefield that is strewn with dead bodies, traps and unexpected obstacles. During their covert excursion into enemy territory they must trust one another with their lives and determine if they have the courage to see the assignment through to completion. The Germans give the impression that they have left all behind and are preparing for a final standoff. These forces leave behind destruction as they move across the French countryside. Land that is filled with despair and danger that await the two infantrymen as they must traverse the war-torn country to deliver their message of salvation for 1600 men.
From the opening scene of the French landscape, the innovative filmmaking technique and storytelling will draw audiences into this compelling mission. A fictitious tale that is based on the stories told to Mendes by his grandfather could lead viewers to think this journey really occurred. The immersive nature of the filming provides an intimate element that will cause many to believe they are in the trenches with the soldiers. MacKay and Chapman deliver the performances of their careers. They provide an experience that shows the soldiers camaraderie and tenacity to make everyone sit on the edge of their seat yearning for them to accomplish their goal.
Similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, this is a film that will sweep the audience into the action in a grand panoramic fashion. The visual experience is mesmerising, but this does lead to slow and anaemic development of the characters. Though each step of the journey does provide glimpses into the hearts of these men. This investment in the soldiers takes time and may cause some to find it hard to care about their experiences. Both actors provide visceral and raw performances that offer empathy for their various plights. Still, it is not until the end of each of their journeys that we are allowed to really know their motivations and backstories. Not that this diminishes the value of the film. It is merely acknowledging that this film does contain a small chink in its armour.
The Mendes / Deakins pairing is a brilliant combination of two artists whose works should have come together long ago. This is a film that should be experienced only in cinemas to truly be appreciated for what it has done to move the film into another realm. A film that will garner deserved award recognition in the coming months and is a celebration of two masters working well together to deliver a masterwork.
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