Film Review: 1917

What a fuckin’ film.

1917 completely blew me away. An absolute thrill ride of a movie, both tense and emotional. Recent film discourse has spoken of certain films not being cinema but rather “theme park rides”. In the best possible way 1917 felt like this. Not to its detriment and not in any way that would mean it’s not cinema. I was completely drawn in and wilfully dragged along for one hell of a ride.

The film is a WW1 drama that’s a simple narrative about getting from point A to point B. It’s shot to appear as one 2 hour long take. This gimmick (wrong word but it is a major selling point) is what really adds to the experience of this film. Although you can see the joins between scenes your ever presence in this world just builds into this insane intensity. Your in real time with the characters and completely invested in their mission.

The film is reminiscent of films like Gravity (2013) and Avatar (2009). Movies that are these huge spectacles where going to see them is an experience. 1917 is honestly the perfect advertisement for the necessity of cinema. Though I will be buying this on UHD sometime next year, watching this film on my couch is will not be the same as having seen it at the movies. If this had come out on a streaming service or made as a limited series the whole feeling that it evokes probably would be undermined.

Director Sam Mendes has crafted a small story on a large scale. The simplicity of the story and its singular focus allow it to be about so much more. You see the horrors of war, the toll it takes on those who fight it and the impact it has on the world it’s fought on. The film is based on stories told to Mendes by his Grandfather Alfred and this grounding in truth is such a strong component of this film.

If Roger Deakins doesn’t win a Oscar for this movies cinematography then there is truly no justice in the world. Hopefully every award is, lovingly, thrown at Deakins. This film is a true marvel. A technical achievement that deserves acknowledgement. The way it’s shot is something to behold and it’s a big reason why this film works so well. Without the combined efforts of both story and technical precision the movie would fall apart, so Deakins’ work is intrinsically important.

The two main leads in Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay are as great as you could ever hope for. They sell the situation, sell the fear and sell the courage. They were completely believable as these two young men in that hell of a war. The supporting cast in Andrew Scott, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch are also wholly wonderful. The decision to cast bigger names in these smaller roles was a smart idea. The actors added weight to scenes and characters that otherwise wouldn’t have felt the same. Amongst the chaos they added grounding and something for the audience to hold onto.

I can’t speak more highly of this film. I loved it. The film resonated with me on a personal level and my predisposition to enjoy war films probably helped as well. But judge for yourself. I’d be shocked if you didn’t find something in this film that spoke to you.

I’ll begin as a I started…

What a fuckin’ film:

★★★★★

Written by Benjamin Boekelaar