1917 review – Enthralling, Immersive and Stylish

Billed as a ‘one-take’ film, 1917 is a series of continuous shots put together to give the impression of an ongoing camera always filming, and never stopping. It’s a simple story, we essentially follow the two leads through war-torn battle fields and trenches as they try to deliver an important message to call off an attack.

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Sam Mendes and Rodger Deakins re-team for this World War I film, it’s an impressive feat that is pulled off with skill. At first it seems almost like a gimmick, but it ends up working to engross you in the constant danger faced. All that people want to talk about is the film’s cinematography, it shouldn’t go unmentioned that if the acting wasn’t up to standard it’d be all for nothing. George MacKay is perfectly stern and committed, he is what makes it all work. People have been pretending like MacKay has just arrived out of nowhere, that isn’t true. Last year saw MacKay in a leading role, to which he was devilishly brilliant in Sergio G. Sánchez’s The Secret of Marrowbone.

Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is tasked with choosing a partner, Schofield (George MacKay) is chosen. They are tasked to be messengers, to get a message out to stop an attack scheduled for tomorrow. A German retreat sees an attack being formed past the German bunkers and in the open battle fields. The English believe they have the German’s on the run, but really they are running into an organised trap. Our Lance Corporal’s must stop that push, Blake’s brother is among them.

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Shot to look like real-time, 1917 is an ongoing sequence of somewhat realist events. The dialogue is written in a simplistic, yet, effectively real way that depicts the war-focused characters as true. The film is actually very funny, there is a nice balance in the mix of class and culture, allowing for all sorts of humour. It is very English, especially in the style of talk and humour, its remarkably familiar.

Although its been billed as a ‘one-take’ film there are a few evident cuts, one specific change to night from day that is obvious. Perhaps, the billing of its style has took away from some of the impact? You find yourself looking for those cuts and when the jump in time comes I would be lying if it didn’t feel a little cheap. Not because of the filmmaking, but because of the advertising and insistent need to call it a ‘one-take’ film, when it obviously has one blatant cut and a few less noticeable ones.

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1917 is an immersive real-time experience. It’s both thrilling and harrowing. George MacKay is fantastic, holding up the film on his muddied shoulders. It’s a war film that is simplistic, stylish and impressive.

4/5 Stars ★★★★☆

Ben Rolph

1917 is out in US & UK Cinemas NOW

FOLLOW WRITER BEN ROLPH ON TWITTER: @THEDCTVSHOW
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