1917 explodes off the screen. It is a taught thriller with barely any time to catch a breath. Set during WWI, this is just a small snapshot of a day in the life of two soldiers. What sets this apart for me, from other films in the genre is that we are with the characters in real time every step of the way. Filmed as one long take, (with a a few clever cuts), we are with these two men as they navigate their emotions and the German front lines as they try to stay alive long enough to warn their fellow soldiers of an impending ambush.
Our hero’s, Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay who play Blake and Schofield respectively, are absolutely top notch. They bring a nuanced realism to their roles that sucks the audience into what seems like the real world. Whether they are joking with each other, yelling at each other, or saving each others lives, the emotional weight rests on their shoulders. Some negativity I have heard is that this seems like a video game with npc characters saying the same lines, “the general is up ahead”, but I would submit that this is most true to life. We aren’t seeing a caped crusader, we are seeing regular dudes who are doing their very best. They are not the most qualified or the most decorated soldiers, they are you and me.
Sam Mendes has created an excellent war film, but not just that, it stands above its peers because it has brought more humanity through its powerful story telling. The decision to make it a “one shot” keeps us grounded, with the flawless blending of practical and visual effects you are immersed into this world as if you were with the soldiers. A visceral experience that will not soon be forgotten. A supporting cast of brilliant actors including a hilarious showing from Andrew Scott. The horror of war are in full bloom and its effect on humans personally as well as humanity as a whole. There are obvious comparisons to Nolan, but Mendes stands on his own here with his unique voice and confident film making.