1917 (2020) A Review

All the gut-wrenching events of this film take place within 24 hours. And you really do feel the tension from the very first minutes.  A truly astounding achievement of a film.


DIRECTOR:  Sam Mendes

STARRING:  Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays

SCREENPLAY:  Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns

GENRE:  Drama, War

RUNTIME:  119 Minutes

★★★★ 4 Stars  

Recently voted ‘Best Picture’ in the 2020 Golden Globes, I went into ‘1917’ expected great and lofty things.  And for the most part, that is exactly what it delivered.  It wasn’t a comfortable experience and it wasn’t uplifting.  But it was profound and technically marvellous. 

Two young corporals are tasked with travelling through German Occupied France with an urgent message.  If they deliver it on time, they will save the lives of 1600 men, if they fail, all those men will die in a cleverly laid German trap, including one of the Soldiers brothers.    

This film was a near perfect masterpiece.  The action starts right from the films opening scenes and scarcely lets up until it’s final nail biting conclusion.  Meaning that for the vast majority of this film, I was on edge, biting my nails and praying that they would all get out of it OK. The story Is written masterfully and the fast pace and tense atmosphere go a long way to not making this film feel like it lasts its 2hr runtime.

Sam Mendes also assembled a great host of British acting talent to help carry this film.  Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch to name only a few. And with an ensemble like that, you aren’t really going to find a dud among them.  Whether they are on screen for two minutes or half an hour, the performances are all strong and note worthy.  But all the props in the world have to go to George MacKay for his spectacular performance as LC Schofield.  Why he isn’t getting more buzz this awards season is beyond me. The film is getting plenty of praise so please someone, get this man an award!

There are also great tonal shifts in this film.  Grim, uncomfortable views of trench life, Emotional scenes and scenes that could be something out of a horror movie are all mixed together to keep the audience on the edge of their seats and riding an emotional rollercoaster with the characters.  Very Clever. 

I only really had two small issues with this film.  The first being a slightly anticlimactic ending. I thought there would be more pomp or conflict at the end, but it was all wrapped up quickly and neatly, I guess the point of the story was the journey, not the ending.   

And my other slight criticism is with the editing.  Where they have admittedly been really clever, is that they have managed to make this film feel like it was shot in one continuous take,  There is hardly one, of any jump cuts in the entire 2 hours.  But the down side of that is that when the action starts and things chaotic, the rapid moving of the camera can make you feel a little sea sick. It does a great job of making you feel like you are part of the mission, and you are right there with them the whole time.  But wow at times did I feel queasy.  

You will Laugh, You will Cry, you will bite your nails to the quick.  But it is completely worth it.  Even if war films aren’t usually your thing. 

1917 is out in UK cinemas now!

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