It is April 6th, 1917. It’s the height of World War 1. Two young English corporals are tasked with bringing information to a battalion of soldiers and if they fail potentially 1600 English souls will fall. If this isn’t enough motivation, the older brother of one of the young men could potentially be a casualty.
And so with a ticking clock, 1600 lives on the line, and two young men facing insurmountable odds the stage is set for Sam Mendes’ WWI epic, 1917.
Starring Dean-Charles Chapman and George McKay 1917 is an intimate epic, if that makes sense. We the audience are following these two young soldiers as they try and get from A to C, unfortunately, B is literal hell filled with the bodies of the young and old, innocent and the damned.
The imagery on show is quite impactful and I think the reasoning behind the potency is from the team behind the film. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins show us new unexplored avenues of horror.
There are moments in this film that genuinely horrified me. One particular moment came early when Schofield (McKay) and Blake (Chapman) are taking their first steps across No-Mans Land. They fall into a pit of corpses, try and maneuver around only for Schofield to slip and his arm goes through a large gaping hole in a body. It is this disturbing imagery that the characters just shrug off like a nuisance that perfectly sells that this is their everyday life and it’s unsettling.
The Medal of Honour on 1917
The crowning achievement of the cinematography and direction of 1917 comes in the shape of the one continuous take effect this film simulates. It’s incredible and there are several moments in the film where the use of it adds further impact to the events surrounding Schofield and Blake. A simply spellbinding scene involving a german soldier chasing down Blake comes across as something out of a nightmare. I couldn’t believe it, and when you couple all this with the smothering score you feel the intense emotions the characters are feeling.
I always love a decent score and when you couple Thomas Newman’s score with Roger Deakins cinematography you can have one hell of a cinematic experience (Bladerunner 2049 anyone). I don’t know if you can enjoy a stress-inducing score but I suppose the best word would be appreciate, so I appreciate the score of 1917.
Soldiers conscripted in
When trying to figure out if there were issues with 1917 two elements popped immediately into my mind. First, there is the plot. For the most part it’s quite generic, two young soldiers against the odds but in my opinion, these kinds of stories are only generic because I imagine a lot of these kind events happened.
The second and strangely jarring element of the film was whenever a new high-ranking officer is introduced in the film (and this happens a surprisingly large number) they were a highly celebrated actor. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film I was introduced to Colin Firth and Andrew Scott and it took me out of the film and it happened a lot. Thankfully though there was something that saved this from feeling like a weird gimmick, the cast itself.
1917 is a visual and auditory wonder but it never would have worked as well without its incredible cast. From its bit players to its two leads 1917 is a masterclass in acting. I couldn’t believe how much each actor brought to the table. A particular highlight came early on with the appearance of Colin Firth. He sets the board and places the pieces in such a compelling fashion that I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Chapman and McKay are also a great double act, in particular McKay who gives everything he has to this role.
I adored 1917 and at the time of writing this review I can’t wait to see it again. If you’re interested be sure and check out 1917 in the biggest and loudest cinema near you and if you enjoy my reviews and want to read more stay tuned to Scannain because we’ve got you covered on all things film.