Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Pip Carter, Andy Apollo, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch
Words – Eleanor Smith
In this immersive masterpiece, placing the audience into the action with the ‘long one take’ effect, director Sam Mendes perfectly portrays the brutality and horror of the First World War. Though not the first to use this technique, 1917 is among those films to use it with such effect in creating such immense suspense.
We are instantly captivated, given the constant dread felt by Lance Corporal Schofield (George Mackay). The lingering shot doesn’t allow you a second to escape, on edge from start to finish. Mendes draws us into the film so successfully we become a character in this journey ourselves.
Brotherhood and heroism are common tropes of war films and 1917 is no exception, but what makes 1917 so original is Mendes’ close attention to detail. We meet Lieutenant Lesie (Andrew Scott) as he says, “told you it was Friday,” to one of his comrades off screen. Showing this mundane exchange of conversation between soldiers throughout, capturing the time and life flawlessly.
We are taken through no-mans land, step by step and second by second, as they set out on their mission from the film’s outset. Mendes presents one of the most realistic and grim depictions of no-man’s land in any World War film. The decaying corpses of both humans and horses imprints on the mind, a credit to the work of 1917’s production.
A film full of A-List British actors from Colin Firth to Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s George Mackay who steals the show with his raw, emotive and truly outstanding performance. The tiredness and hopelessness portrayed in his character, as he desperately tries to save the lives of 1,600 men; he carries the film, and takes us on a journey we will not forget.
1917 is a tremendous achievement, and possibly the closest we will ever get to the action of the First World War.