Mr O and I don’t get to see loads of films in the cinema but after seeing a trailer for 1917 and reading all the hype surrounding it, we decided it was worth drumming up some babysitting. Mr O is a bit of a war buff and it is a genre we both enjoy so it seemed like a good choice.
In the throes of World War I the British Army believe they have the Germans on the run. However new intelligence shows that the “Hun” are in fact making a tactical retreat with the intention of luring the entire Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment into a trap that will annihilate them. In order to call off the attack General Ennimore (Colin Firth) decides to send two Lance Corporals on a daring mission across no man’s land and the now abandoned German territory to hand deliver the orders.
Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is chosen because his brother (Richard Madden) is a member of the company and his friend, Will Schofield (George MacKay) is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now the two will need to race against the clock as well as face untold horrors in the abandoned German trenches and beyond.
Much has been made of the fact that this film was shot to mimic one single take and you can’t take anything away from that. It looks spectacular and it’s deeply engrossing. There is never a moment where you’re not on the edge of your seat and often you feel like you’re almost in the film. George MacKay works flat out in a role that requires endless physicality and a kind of mute expression of the horrors of war and little is done to shy away from the unmitigated grimness. I am thinking in particular of one scene with a corpse, if you’ve seen it, you’ll know the one. It’s also abundantly evident that no one’s mental health is really holding up under the assault… special call out to Andrew Scott for bringing his usual manic energy to Lieutenant Leslie.
But…. I have heard several reviewers claim this is the greatest war film ever made. I am not sure what lead them to this conclusion, maybe it was the first war film they’d ever seen.
I have always enjoyed stories that are character driven and you don’t really get to know Schofield at all in this film. I found it hard to get deeply emotionally invested because I didn’t know what motivated him. I felt slightly more invested in Blake but the balance seemed off. Without exception the various officers were almost immediately more interesting than Schofield. Maybe relying on such big cameos was a mistake.
I enjoyed the film but was left wondering “so what”? I didn’t learn anything new or feel anything big. I guess the sort of vidoegamification of war is what some viewers really enjoyed but I wanted something more.
I’ll leave this at exciting but forgettable. Hit me up in the comments if you want some better recommendations. Let’s debate our favourite war films… unless this is one of your faves, in which case, I’m out!