Allow me preface this review by saying that War films is probably my least favourite genre out there. Most of my favourite war films are all historical, such as Braveheart, but I’d heard great things about Sam Mendes’ 1917. And wow. Believe the hype on this one, this has instantly jumped out as a front runner for awards season because this was something special.
The conceit of the film, essentially following a single shot through the entire film. Now obviously it isn’t actually a single take, but any cuts in there are so seamless that they’re just not noticable. Mendes’ decision to shoot the film like this really puts you into the heart of the action with the two protagonists, and their mission to deliver a message calling off an attack that will lead to countless lives being lost. Working with Mendes as the cinematographer was Roger Deakins, and I’m not sure if there was anyone else who could have shot this film. Deakins is obviously one of the absolute all time great cinematographers, and the shots he constructs, whilst having to constantly be on the move along with the two actors was sensational. This is a technical marvel of movie, but we’ve seen plenty of films like that which don’t have the emotional impact or storytelling to back them up.
But not 1917. The film is based on the stories that Sam Mendes was told by his grandfather who fought in World War I and he makes 1917 a deeply personal and moving story. The emotional weight for one of the characters, Tom Blake, by having their brother being one of the men in the battalion who are on the verge of attacking. But the principal character we follow is the man Blake takes with him, Will Schofield. Played incredibly by George MacKay, Schofield’s journey through the film is brilliantly laid out, we slowly have information revealed about him through, and it all comes to a head in an incredibly emotional finale. The way Mendes manages to create a film with such scale, but also elicit a big emotional response from the audience is incredibly impressive.
1917 wasn’t even on my radar until I heard about the concept of a war film being told in this single sequence. But even then I never expected it to be as good as it is. The film really conveys how horrible the war was, and brings you into that world. The film is exceptionally made, but also powerful and personal. Believe the hype, 1917 is one of the great war films.