Sam Mendes‘ war drama is set during World War I and very personal to him, as it tells a story his grandfather used to tell him when he was still a young lad. Dedicated to Mendes’ hero, this drama cuts deep when we join two young soldiers on a mission to deliver a message that could possibly save thousands of fellow combatants.

Filmed and edited as if it was one long take, the camera never leaves our main protagonists, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), out of its sight. Mendes (Skyfall) and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Penny Dreadful) therefore corner themselves by relying on this kind of linear storytelling, to tell a very focused but at times a somewhat thin tale. Some of the scenes are so empty, it will for sure test audiences’ patience. Technical, ‘1917‘ is a true feast for the eyes and ears.

Roger Deakins’ (Blade Runner 2049) cinematography is once again breathtakingly superior to anything else you’ve seen this year, and for sure will be the one thing people unanimously praise. Sound editing/mixing, visual effects and production design are all outstanding. These are the things, people will remember. It is Thomas Newman‘s (Passengers) score that elevates every moment happening in front of you, intensifying the emotions brought by our main characters. And although MacKay (Captain Fantastic) and Chapman (Game of Thrones) do a pretty phenomenal job at capturing the true essence of their characters going through a literal hell, it’s the side characters with little-to-no screen time who steal their spotlight. Andrew Scott (Fleabag), Mark Strong (Shazam!), Richard Madden (Rocketman) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange) are checkpoints along the way, but man, do they impress with the few lines they’re given.

1917 is without a doubt a technical masterpiece, that will inspire many filmmakers, but I can’t feel a bit let down. As an overall film, it wants to play a heavy tune on your heartstrings, but can’t reach that level of sentiment, because the focus on technicalities pulled me out of the story. It for sure is one of the better films 2019 has brought to the big screen, yet a bit more focus on the script could’ve made this the cinematic masterpiece of the decade. Nonetheless, I recommend watching this on the biggest screen possible and enjoy another fine piece of cinema brought to you by Sam Mendes.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘1917’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Dec. 5, 2019. Australian Classification: TBC. Running time: 119 min.

PRODUCTION: A Universal Pictures release of a DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment presentation, in association with New Republic Pictures, of a Neal Street Prods., Amblin Partners production. Producers: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall, Brian Oliver. Executive producers: Jeb Brody, Ricardo Marco Budé, Ignacio Salazar-Simpson.

CREW: Director: Sam Mendes. Screenplay: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Camera (color, widescreen): Roger Deakins. Editor: Lee Smith. Music: Thomas Newman.

WITH: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch. (English, French, German dialogue).

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