1917 (2019)


Whenever a new war film hits cinemas chances are it's World War II-related. And how to blame those filmmakers? I'm the first who finds it a very, if not the most fascinating one. Sam Mendes goes against the crowd with his latest film 1917, a World War I film that can be described with two words, masterful filmmaking.

April 6, 1917. As the German army has pulled back from a sector of the Western Front in the north of France, two British soldiers, Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are briefed by their commanding officer, General Erinmore (Colin Firth), and are ordered to cross no man's land to hand-deliver a message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) of the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to stop their planned attack which might cost the lives of 1,600 men, including Blake's brother, Lieutenant Joseph Blake (Richard Madden), as the Germans are not actually in retreat but have made a tactical withdrawal to ambush the British army. 

A simple and straightforward story based on the war stories of Alfred Mendes, the director's paternal grandfather, 1917's epic story is an engaging, captivating, relentless, emotionally powerful and adrenaline-filled journey with the two main characters through the horrors of war, a dramatized and yet powerful story that shows the futility and insanity of war while also exploring themes of brotherhood and sense of duty.

These are indeed the two themes at the centre of Mendes's film, two themes that give the main characters, Blake and Schofield, purposes — Blake's motivation, apart from carrying out an assignment, is to save his brother from almost certain death; Schofield, on the other hand, finds importance in the mission only after Blake's death as he sees it as his only way to honour their friendship —, and, despite their lack of characterization and development, we soon become attached to these two young men and end up really caring about them. 

These thin characters would have never worked if it wasn't for the two talented actors who played them. Game of Thrones star Dean-Charles Chapman gives a more than solid and rather poignant performance in the role of Blake — unfortunately, his limited screen time doesn't give him the chance to truly shine. George MacKay, on the other hand, is beyond phenomenal. He brings plenty of depth to the character with an intense and genuine performance that delivers all the fear, pain and determination of the character, and effortlessly carries the film on his shoulders. As for the supporting cast, while it makes very little sense to cast actors such as Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch for such small roles — cameos, basically —, I was surprised by how their presence, rather than being distracting, actually added a layer of depth to the film.

However, the most striking aspect of 1917 arguably is Roger Deakins's breathtaking cinematography. While it's nothing new that we haven't seen before — just think of Iñárritu's Birdman —, the one-shot style is masterfully executed and allows us to immerse ourselves completely in the story and feel as if we were living it, right there with Blake and Schofield. The camera effortlessly flows in a smooth motion and never leaves the characters out of its sight. It's the editing crew though that deserves plenty of credits for the inability to spot the cuts because, if it wasn't for the outstanding post-production work, the film would not give the illusion of being one very long take. The production design is even more impressive as the trenches and bombed-out buildings are accurately recreated, and it really feels like watching historical footage. At last but not least, Thomas Newman's score fits every moment to perfection, always there to support and enhance the action without being intrusive.

Ultimately, 1917 is a surprisingly emotional and breathtaking cinematic experience.

18 comments :

  1. Great review!!! Definitely an experience...my hands were clenched the entire time!!

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    1. Thank you! I hugged my knees the entire time because that's what I do when I'm watching something really tense.

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  2. I liked this one a lot. Still unsure how I will write my review.. it's hard to put my emotions into words. I'm definitely feeling the emotions even now.
    MacKay was brilliant.

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    1. I feel you. It was hard to write it for me too. Such an intense and emotional film.

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  3. That was such an emotional movie indeed. I really liked it and MacKay was great, he should be getting awards love for this.

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  4. It's truly incredible filmmaking, isn't it. I was glued to the screen the entire time. I REALLY hope I can see it one more time in the theater before it leaves. It is definitely made for the big screen experience.

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    1. Yes it is! If I'm not too tired I'm going to rewatch this after work tonight because I just can't get enough of it.

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  5. Incredible direction, cinematography and acting. Amazing to think how many new stories there still are. I did jump a few times!

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  6. Strong review! The word 'experience' gets tossed around a lot with this movie but for good reason. That truly is how it plays. I loved it.

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    1. Thank you! And sorry for not approving your comment earlier and making you comment twice 😅

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    2. HA!!!! No worries! The movie and review was worthy of comments! :)

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  7. Wonderful review, Sonia! I saw it last night and loved it. The cinematography was great, and I also really liked the direction! Sam Mendes did a great job!

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    1. Thank you! Mendes really outdid himself if you ask me.

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  8. I can’t wait to see this film. It sounds excellent

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    1. I hope you get to see it soon and have a great experience.

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