Run time: 110 MIN
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Daniel Mays, Adrian Scarborough, Jamie Parker, Richard McCabe, Michael Jibson, Nabhaan Rizwan
Synopsis: At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield and Blake are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers— Blake’s own brother among them.
1917, from director Sam Mendes [ Skyall (2012); Revolutionary Road (2008); American Beauty (1999)] is a hard-hitting, immersive, and formidable technical achievement, capturing the experience of the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy.
Grandfather Alfred Mendes’ wartime experiences and stories helped to give birth to his grandson’s idea for the 1917 film. The official synopsis reads, “In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers.” In fact it seems that much of the film’s story has been re-imagined and styled – with innovative continuous tracking shot cinematography – so that the film is lifted to the level of an an allegorical journey into hell, reminiscent of the Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now.
George MacKay [Captain Fantastic (2016); Pride (2014); Sunshine on Leith (2013)] and Dean-Charles Chapman [Game of Thrones (TV 2013-2016);Blinded by the Light (2019); The King (2019)] are Schofield and Blake, our protagonists whom we follow as they execute their urgent mission, while none of the horrors of trench warfare are hidden, with its brutality shown unwaveringly.
Cinematography by Roger Deakins [Blade Runner 2049 (2017); Skyfall (2012); The Goldfinch (2019)] is outstanding with the hypnotic horror of the killing fields of the Western Front conveyed by a stark mise-en-scene.
Sean Hayes, an acclaimed portrait photographer, has likened the appearance of the production to the work of William Orpen, the Irish World War 1 artist.
1917 is a major achievement in immersive filmmaking, with its impressive cinematography and editing, creating a near-perfect filmic experience, cleverly balancing the tension and coldness of war with deep human emotion.
The film is tense and exciting, with mesmerising editing, set design and direction, and a powerful and evocative score from Thomas Newman [You Were Never Really Here (2017); Skyfall (2012)] which further draws you into the sheer horror of World War 1 as if you are walking with these men.
1917 has a superb ensemble cast, with Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden and Benedict Cumberbatch in small – but key – roles. However most credit must go to Mendes and MacKay, for their tour de force in direction and acting, which makes this film such a moving and memorable experience
Images courtesy of: ENTERTAINMENT ONE UK