1917 has been in limited release since Christmas and now it expands nationwide. It’s already generated plenty of awards season buzz including a recent Golden Globe win for Best Picture.
So, does it live up to all the hype? The answer is a resounding yes.
Director Sam Mendes has crafted one of the most gripping, riveting, and intense depictions of war ever put on film.
The film centers around two British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are given a mission to go into No Man’s Land during the height of World War I to call off an attack that, if left unchecked, will be responsible for many casualties.
What follows are the two men undergoing excruciating conditions of traipsing through mud-and-blood soaked trenches and the willingness to see this mission through.
Mendes is in full control of his craft and it appears on screen every second. We get a lot of shots of long, unbroken takes in which we see the two soldiers’ every move into enemy territory and, at times, the movie flirts with the idea that any moment could be their last.
Roger Deakins delivers Oscar-worthy cinematography and it’s also punctuated by Lee Smith’s tight editing that really puts us into the thick of the action.
However, 1917 has much more going for it than just mere superb technical prowess. We get to know these two soldiers on their journey and they question why they need each other and they even question if they will make it to the other side by the end. It’s an intelligent war film that is also acted well.
Mendes prepares us for what’s going to happen by establishing the locations of what this war has done to the people in it and he also expertly makes us uncomfortably tense. Just when we think we can settle in and relax, something explosive happens and the results are unnerving.
1917 is in the great tradition of unforgettable war movies and is an exhilarating technical achievement.