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'1917' confronts the daunting and distressing realities of warfare

1917 | Dir: sam Mendes | Opens 9th January 2020 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

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Sam Mendes gave us one of the greatest survival films with The Revenant and this time he takes his audience into the trenches of the First World War. This incredible film is based on the recollections of his grandfather Alfred who fought in the First World War as a 17 year-old and it is dedicated to his memory.

The film follows two young British soldiers who are sent on a dangerous mission to the front line to try to stop a planned attack. All attention is focused on Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman – who some may recognize as Tommen from Game of Thrones) and Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George Mackay) as they race against time to prevent two battalions of soldiers from being slaughtered.

They cross the frontline in France into German-held territory and the camera captures the extent of the war’s destruction as it tracks their every movement.

Many films have been made about wars, particularly the war to end all wars which ended over a hundred years ago now but I have never seen one that brings the audience so close to the action, almost becoming a third character alongside the two young soldiers battling to reach a virtually impossible goal.

The secret is that Mendes shot the film to appear that it is one continuous single shot, tracking the two lance corporals as they make their way through trenches, across No Man’s Land and into enemy territory full of snipers.

We see war through the eyes of two ordinary, frightened young men as they confront the daunting, dangerous and distressing realities of warfare.

The only distraction with this technical masterpiece was that there are several brief cameo appearances by well-known actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Mark Strong and Daniel Mays. Unfortunately it took me away from being fully immersed in the mesmerising journey for those brief moments.

Lezly Herbert


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