Rating – ★★★★
Mendes’ one-shot war drama throws audiences into the harsh realities of the trench war, showcased through stunning filmography and a meticulous level of detail. One of the front-runners for the awards season and it’s clear to see why. 1917 is gripping from start to finish, as it exquisitely leads you through a heroes journey with sacrifice and survival playing integral roles in a soldiers tale.
Two Lance Corporals are sent on a suicide mission, having to traverse through hostile terrain with no clear knowledge of what they’ll be walking into, in order to reach a Colonel who is unknowingly about to send 1600 British troops to their impending death. One of those many soldiers about to risk their lives happens to be the brother to one of the two men sent on this lifesaving mission.
Despite a flurry of explosive set pieces, it’s in the moments which lean heavily on its lead performers (George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) to tell and further demonstrate the atrocities of war, that packs the biggest punch. From navigating through both friendly and hostile bunkers, to dodging enemy fire and even planes, 1917 creates a tension that never truly falters, leaving its audience constantly breathless.
Through the art of the one-shot style of filmmaking, the action is presented in a way that feels more devastating than ever before, allowing the audience to really feel as though they’re a part of it. Every explosion and every fire of a gun hits with roaring effect.
With Roger Deakins as cinematographer, we are gifted with some of the finest images put to screen this calendar year. With his sharp and highly detailed imagery turning something as grotesque and melancholic as war, into something so beautiful and artistic. Lighting the French town of Ecoust by only flares and fires from the surrounding buildings and the bleakness of burned fields, that are filled with the bodies that lie dead in the wake of all the madness. It’s a beautiful sight, in spite of its poignant and relentless brutality.
This is a war epic that still perfectly encapsulates the horrors of a dark era in our history, but with a more unique structure. With such fluidity and professionalism, Mendes and his team craft something that manages to distance itself from what has become common place within the genre. 1917 is a breathtaking experience that looks to sweep up a few awards this season, and deservedly so.