During the First World War, two young soldiers are given an impossible mission to deliver a message to prevent 1600 men being lead into a trap which would see them all killed. Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield take on this mission to save Blake’s brother.
The film which uses “one shot” for the action has had a lot of publicity and talk around just that, and I have to say that it is utterly stunning, breathtaking and heart racing sometimes all at the same time. This makes us feel that we are moving through the dangerous war zone along with our two heroes, having to watch as they struggle getting into the enemy territory with no idea if the information they have been given and the letter to fall back is actually the right thing to do.
The fact that they are unsure makes the viewer feel unsure and I lost count to the number of times I felt like I was not breathing properly as I watched the young soldiers push forward. The storytelling meant that we cared what happened to them from the first moment of seeing them, as they were given what could only be an impossible task. They could have got shot going across towards the German front line, they really had no idea if they were really gone.
The film is visually stunning at times and other times makes you feel claustrophobic as they climb between others and venture into the unknown. All possible elements are explored and the scene with Schofield going over the top and running is powerful and in all honesty I wanted to break down into tears. It gave me shivers and that was largely to the fact of his character development and wanting to see him survive and get the mission done. It had been so tough as he had to battle on and cope with everything that had happened to him.
The idea for the story within the film for Blake and Schofield didn’t happen, but it could have – its loosely based on a story that director and writer Sam Mendes was told by his grandfather. Something he had to do during WW1 was to take these messages and do it quickly, physical messages due to the telegraph and telephone lines being cut down. So I guess this is a fantastic way to capture what different soldiers within the war would have had to do for their country and fellow men.
The cast is utterly outstanding bringing together some of the biggest names in British acting and some I have to admit were a nice little surprise, I mean I probably did read they were in the film but once I was lost in 1917 I wasn’t waiting to see anyone in particular. It certainly made for outstanding moments and viewing as we get different ranked officers with some recognisable faces Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden.
Dean-Charles Chapman was brilliant as Blake, offering a very positive character who loved to tell stories. Picking his friend Schofield for this mission with him. He had fantastic chemistry with George MacKay who was utterly outstanding throughout the film and I actually feel that he has not been given anywhere near enough credit. The talk is around the film which is very well deserved as it is something else. But MacKay is one of the reasons for that and should be rewarded for this, he has come a very long way since I first remember seeing him in Sunshine on Leith. I cannot even think of enough words to praise his performance enough, seriously he is outstanding with Chapman alongside him in that as well. Those roles obviously had to work in order for the film to have that emotional side.
We don’t get many films on this level in terms of filmmaking anymore so I am so pleased Sam Mendes decided to use this method as it really does grip you from start to finish. I am so pleased this more than lives up to all the hype surrounding it. I would be more than happy for it to pick up the Best Picture Oscar, it’s on level with Saving Private Ryan in terms of war films with the true emotional edge. Breathtaking. Outstanding.