The film 1917 is certainly a bit glossy and smooth, a cinematic marvel by a crew who are really damn good with a camera. The World War I film from director Sam Mendes is made to look like one continuous shot, a harrowing non-stop journey through war-torn France in the first modern conflict. It hits a lot of the right notes. 1917 is a solemn war movie with popular appeal, the kind of thing that makes award nominations guaranteed. But it’s also a bit empty in that it lacks that heartfelt story that grabs you and pulls you in.
1917 tells a focused, quick paced story. Inspired by Mendes, the film follows Schofield and Blake, two British soldiers in northern France who are tasked with delivering an urgent letter to another battalion ordering them to call off a pending attack, for they will be slaughtered in an ambush. This when the camera follows our two lead characters, the camera becomes the third member of their party, disguising every cut to make the film appear as one unbroken sequence. Clever management helps 1917 pull this feat off incredibly well, but in embracing cinematic showmanship, the film leaves little for viewers to grab on to when it comes to characters. This makes the whole endeavour feel both brave and vain, a stunning movie experience that evaporates in your mind not long after seeing it.
1917 has a small cast, but there are more than a few faces. Benedict Cumberbatch makes a very realistic appearance, as does Andrew Scott and Mark Strong. You might miss them entirely, though, because the camera never really gets close to them. It never lingers, never engages with them on a level any deeper than the bare minimum for establishing the action. Close cuts are used to foster intimacy, and if a camera never truly gets close to anyone, then we aren’t likely to either. In 1917, the horror and spectacle of war are credible and impressive.
Very little about World War I can be sold that way. It was incited by an absurd implosion of political entanglements and waged in rot, with the Western Front characterized by three years of attrition and trench warfare. When fighting happened, it introduced new horrors to the world: chemical weapons, automatic firearms, tanks. All of it is too crude for dressing up in a slick war story and too effective to be seen as anything other than monstrous.
Schofield and Blake are living in a really harsh misery which is good and their ordeal is lifelike to reality, the one biggest thing I thought the scenery and landscape could have been improved or done a little better. In parts it did look like you were on a film set rather than a real WWI trench. In conclusion, I liked the story although a little far-fetched, the acting was and the effects were good, I imagine some die hard WWI enthusiasts might find it a little fanciful.