1917 – Film Review
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Stars: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden
It is the 6th of April, 1917. We meet two privates, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) just before they are sent on a near-impossible mission. They must travel 8 miles through German-held territory to warn two battalions not to attack a new German base. The Germans have cut all telephone lines and there is no other way to communicate with them. If they do not get there in time, it will end in certain death for the battalion, which includes Blake’s own brother.
This is a new film by Sam Mendes which is dedicated to his grandfather Alfred who served in the Great war and told stories of it to his grandchildren. The story is not overly complex and is told in a straightforward fashion. The main point of interest for the film is that the viewer experiences the happenings in real-time, we see what the two privates see as they try to achieve their goal.
The film allows the viewer to experience the front lines of the battlefields, with the soldiers moving through mud and barbed wire to reach their destination. The initial sequences are as authentic an experience of life on the front lines as you could imagine. The battle sequences have a similar feel to the Revenant, as the audience is plunged into the madness of war, with no idea of what will happen next. It captures the chaos and danger of the conflict.
If you’re going to the cinema to see the talents of Andrew Scott, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch, be warned that they only make fleeting appearances. Our two privates meet them along their journey but as they are on a race against time, they never stay in the one spot for too long! This film has a real chance of winning the Oscar for Best Film. It is doing something quite original and it achieves its goal with some style. The comparison with a video game is obvious enough, as the camera charges after the main characters but if you can get over this minor defect there is a lot to enjoy in the style of the piece. The technical difficulty of this film is quite astounding, so it is worth seeing for this alone.