By Joanna Langfield

Sam Mendes homage to his grandfather’s stories of World War I has splashed onto the screen as a modern day video game. For better and for worse.

Technically brilliant, the story is of brave soldiers who somehow must make it through the hell of northern France battlefields, in a seemingly impossible effort to prevent a deadly attack on thousands of soldiers. We and they are emotionally hooked in from the beginning: one of the soldiers who could be heading into massacre is one of our messengers’ brother. But all that is just the plot. Mendes conceptualized the film as one told in ‘real time’, continuous camerawork, no obvious edits. And it’s clear the great cinematographer, Roger Deakins relished the task. I watched the film, heard the two men talk about the process at work and I still don’t know how they did it. The visuals are everything: breathtaking, forthright, beautiful, dizzying and raise the bar for everybody else.

While you’ll recognize the cameo appearances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Andrew Scott, you’ll cheer for Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, the two young (and very fine) actors tasked with carrying the load here. They carry us along with them, thanks to Mendes’ see-it-through-their-eyes perspective, which, hurdle after hurdle, begins to feel a bit like one of those state of the art war games. Contemporary audiences might appreciate that, enjoying the fast pace and can-you-top-this series of magnificently shot horrors. I found myself pulling out of the action, especially when one apparently indestructible soldier jumps to safety, only to find himself pummeled by water rapids. I may not have said “well, now you’re just showing off” out loud, but I certainly thought it.

2 Responses to “1917”

  1. 1917 | The Movie Minute Says:

    […] Read More […]

  2. Beth Martin Says:

    I totally agree. Visually stunning but Dunkirk was so much better.

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