Verdict: 1917 sets the benchmark for war movies with a poignant message.
The film-going audience of the 21st century has probably never witnessed a war. We have heard about it, seen it on television, but rarely been in the midst of one, especially as great as the World Wars. We are probably now on the brink of yet another World War, which only goes on to prove that we are still to grasp the brutalities of such violent episodes. Having said that, Sam Mendes could not have chosen a better time for the release of his war drama 1917, which as the name suggests, takes us back to the peak of World War I. The movie has already bagged big honors at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards, and been nominated for 10 categories at the Academy Awards.
What’s 1917 About:
On 6th April 1917, Lance Corporal Thomas Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) of the 8th Battalion is summoned by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) along with a partner. He picks Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) and the duo are given a task – travel to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment and stop their attack on the Germans that is scheduled for the next day. Aerial intelligence learns that the Germans have made a tactical withdrawal, setting a trap that could kill over 1600 British soldiers if they carry on the attack. One of the soldiers in the front line of the battalion also happens to be Thomas’ brother Joseph Blake (Richard Madden). The soldiers must carry the order across no man’s land and abandoned German trenches to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) before next dawn or risk losing their men to the German troops.
Hollywood’s best movies about war usually focus on World War II. With a movie that takes us even further back, right to the time when major countries first got embroiled in the greatest war the world had ever seen, the interest of the audience is already piqued. The writers then just have to make sure they have a story that keeps the audience engaged throughout. 1917 succeeds on this count. Co-writers Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns have provided the backdrop of the war to tell a story that focusses on its two lead characters but provides ample insight on everything happening around them. George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman pretty much carry the film on their shoulders. All the other actors, including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, and Mark Strong make smaller but impressionable appearances.
1917 follows the events of just one day but is packed with action and battle scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s palpable tension coupled with the fear of what lies ahead for the soldiers. Their path is faced with many hurdles and we get to follow them every step of the way with scenes shot in long sequences that keep us completely hooked. The film does not hold back on the carnage either. War always comes with casualties and the soldiers come across many dead bodies – belonging to both their own and the enemy – along the way. Navigating across these brutalities is hard but the soldiers who have been away from their families for three years know better than to dwell on the past and focus on saving the future. The film tugs at your nerves with its realistic portrayal of war and what it does to the minds and lives of the young men who are involved in it.
What Could’ve Been Better:
There are some continuity errors or technical inaccuracies you might notice throughout the film. The girl and baby found hiding in the devastated French town look too neat for someone who is caught in the middle of a war. Even the wires by the German trenches should have been more rusted given that the war has been going on for three years. These little mistakes are easily caught but do not take away anything from your overall experience of the film.
Why You Should Watch:
After watching 1917, it is apparent why this film is one of the biggest contenders for the Academy Award for Best Picture this year. The movie provides an uncompromising look into the brutalities of war, delivering both a cinematic masterpiece and a poignant message about the perils of such violence. It is absolutely unmissable and best enjoyed on the IMAX screen.
Watch the public review of 1917 right here: