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George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman in 1917 (2019)

Review

1917 (War, Drama) (2020)

 

Director: Sam Mendes

Writers: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays.

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On April 6th, 1917 Two soldiers get a special assignment to deliver a message to the frontline, this message is to convince them that the axis has set a trap for them seemingly retreating waiting till the allies chase them into retreat only to be annihilated by an overwhelming force.

One of the soldiers on the frontline they’re trying to reach is the brother of Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) adding tension to get the message out there before the battle begins.

Their unique mission leads them through miles of enemy territory with the threat of impending danger at every step. It’s a story with several angles, partly heartfelt due to one of the soldier’s brother being included and on the other side the realism of war, gruesome sights of death and torment. The truth was these children were sent to die without a care in the world by those that were behind the scenes of war.

What is immediately apparent is that the movie is mostly accurate with the casting of the extras and supporting characters, these are children that were sent to war, and from the first glance, you can see these young actors portraying inexperienced soldiers. Most notably everything is filmed in one shot as the lead actors move through the trenches and battlefields the camera keeps following them and that is genuinely a tremendous technical achievement, I haven’t seen such impeccable camera work since Birdman. This movie does not focus on intense action scenes or the war in that aspect, yet it uses these soldiers to show the gruesome side, a dark and muddy atmosphere like a theatre of death. But also the relief to meet another regiment on the journey. A sense of safety in numbers. These things were pretty well portrayed.

With those portrayals and the realism of these battles and how it was for the young soldiers, there are sadly some poor decisions made regarding the authenticity, this is likely due to the multi-cultural being forced upon all forms of media, historical content or not, back in World War One soldiers were mainly young white males, unlike now that was just as it. The movie has taken the route of including different ethnicities leading to a picture of the war that just simply isn’t accurate, such as an Indian Sikh included in one of the regiments, who were known to indeed fight with the allies but in separate British regiments, however, it gets even more unlikely as by 1917 all these regiments had been sent to the Middle Eastern front. Something else which is entirely inaccurate according to historians is the fact that allied battalions are fighting the Germans miles beyond the German front line, great for a videogame or even a movie like this but nowhere near an accurate depiction.

Apart from these historical inaccuracies which in all honesty Is something  I can look past and don’t necessarily disapprove of as I understand the thought behind it, the before mentioned lack of action is something that most casual movie-goers might not necessarily sit well with, as a fan of slow-moving cinema however I was delighted to see a great balance between more action-focused scenes and moments of pure silence seeing the character carefully and observingly get through miles of the German territory, there are certainly moments that I thought were less than stellar but looking back I’d say the way the movie is shot combined with the balance of these actions and walking sequences works excellently and in an engaging manner, not boring the viewer. Near the end of the movie the action picks up in almost a perfect final sequence, an actor like Richard Madden (playing Lance Corporal Blake’s older brother) shows his stripes in an emotional scene that truly sells.

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Verdict

Truly a fine accomplishment in cinematography but falls short with a lacklustre story

7.1