1917 by Sam Mendes tells the story of Lance Cpl. Schofield (George Mackay) and Lance Cpl. Blake (Dean Charles Chapman), two soldiers in the English army during WW1 who are tasked with delivering information across enemy territory in a day’s time. If they fail, 1600 men will run into a death trap.
The film is an excellent example of why some stories can only be told in this format. The film tells the whole story in a continuous shot, forcing you to stay with the characters and their trauma, throughout. A novel, a play, a painting could not do this.
The film on the story front is fairly straightforward, following the hero’s journey almost completely. However, this is not a criticism. Its cinematography, seamless editing, excellent performances by its star-studded cast, and brilliant score all work well to elevate a straightforward, albeit heart-warming narrative, to something incredibly impactful.
The film leaves you wondering how it is that soldiers do what they do? It makes you think about the futility of war, especially World War 1 which is infamous for its meat grinder battles, and above all, it serves as an ode to the human spirit.
The film also is never gratuitous in its depiction of violence and physical gore, which one can imagine in wars is quite common. Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and Sam Mendes work hard to jar us, reminding us that war is brutal, but they never overdo it so that we become used to it all. Thus, even in this regard, the film tries to place us firmly in the shoes of the lead characters.
Fair warning, try not to watch trailers for this film, they spoil key aspects of the film. Albeit, if you’ve seen them already, rest easy, the film definitely is more about the journey than the conclusion.
A remarkable feat, 1917 must be experienced in cinemas.