Spoilers Ahead: You’ve been warned. Don’t come complaining in the comments.
Sam Mendes’ World War I drama, 1917 is not one of those films.
A massive mobilization of British troops is unknowingly heading into a German trap. With telephone lines down, it’s up to the two young soldiers(Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield) to go through enemy lines and deliver the message by hand.
That’s the story. The whole story. Pretty linear, isn’t it?
Well, this is where the excellent camera work comes in. The movie is littered with sequences of soldiers running through crowded trenches of other soldiers as explosions take place and bullets fly by.
This obvious lack of space makes Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and his team shoot a lot of the scenes with handheld cameras, thus giving them a necessary sense of urgency.
The story told with the eyes of Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield, who at the beginning are literally sleeping when they are woken up to report to their commanding officer.
And then they are off running between sacked cities and bloodied trenches and battlefield-turned-graveyards and dark tunnels to deliver the message.
When the good guys aren’t being shot at, you can pretty much expect something shittier to go down, as if the lull in action is the reload time before fire is rained upon them again, thus elevating the tension on screen.
Mind you, if you are going to watch the film in the hopes of watching a run of the mill war-drama like Fury or Dunkirk, you might be in for a surprise.
Despite having remnants of Saving private Ryan, 1917 works better as a very violent thriller. The story isn’t about the horrors of the war and so it doesn’t necessarily focus on its effects on the characters, which arguably makes it a little bland.
Apart from the camera work, the visual effects, the sound and Lee Smith’s editing that hides the cuts and makes it feel like one continuous shot.
Take nothing away from the leads: Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay for their performance is as good as you get. Their portrayal of two kids trapped in the heat of battle, experiencing terror and desperation but radiating loyalty and bravery at the same time is something I would pay good money to watch every day.
And if that isn’t convincing enough, there are cameos from big names like Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott and Richard Madden, each of whom shares very little screen space but is convincing in what little lines they are given.
1917 has already won the best film at the Golden Globes and has been sweeping critical acclaim all over the world. So it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that the World War I epic will win big at the Oscars!