- George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch
- Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
- Sam Mendes
- 14A (Canada), R (United States)
- Running Time
- 110 minutes
- Release Date
- December 25th, 2019
For our earlier review of 1917, click here.
After watching 1917 is it clear to see how the film has been lauded by almost everyone, appearing on countless best of 2019 lists and earning plenty of accolades ever since its limited release last Christmas. Everything the film has achieved, it has certainly deserved. This WWI epic is an undeniable technical marvel but in the end, there was still something missing, creating a slight disconnect with the characters. That being said, this did not make this a bad film by any means. It is a spectacle unlike most other films with plenty of great moments that have since vaulted the film into awards conversation, however, their aforementioned technical prowess would overshadow a story that takes a little while to get going.
For those who still don’t know, 1917 is rather simple and follows a pair of young British soldiers during WWI, Lance Corporal Schofield (MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Chapman), as they are given a dangerous mission where they must cross enemy territory to deliver a message that will stop the potential deaths of 1,600 soldiers before they walk into a trap. WWI is such a big event to cover so the film rightfully grounds the story by telling it from the perspective of these young men. Schofield and Blake were close while Blake had an older brother among those 1,600 soldiers so their motivations were clear but beyond that, both were on the thin side though this was easy to overlook. It was just difficult to truly become invested in the story.
However, the counterargument for 1917 is that it’s more of an experience than an actual story. The last film that comes to mind in that regard is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Though this film has more of a story, it still becomes overshadowed. This film is a slow burn as its surreal level of immersion lets us feel what Schofield and Blake felt right along with them, almost in real time. Roger Deakins’ cinematography has rightfully been singled out but the sound design should be right up there. Meanwhile, the score has also been Oscar-nominated along with the cinematography and the sound design (editing and mixing). While this nomination is plausible, it was mostly hit or miss in lifting the big moments and occasionally intruding others.
Despite everything else, the best way to describe 1917 would be intense. Once the film gets going, it really gets going which means it dragged during the quieter moments but thankfully these moments went fewer and fewer as the film went on. Suffice it to say that the regardless of how technically proficient the film may be, it would not have worked if not for the chemistry of MacKay and Chapman as Schofield and Blake respectively. They are certainly put through the ringer during what was surely an unrelenting experience for them as their characters faced danger at almost every turn though it would also be unrelenting for us as viewers from start to finish. Both deliver star-making performances, however, MacKay was sensational, delivering an absolutely fearless physical performance while carrying the emotional weight. Meanwhile, many big name British actors make brief appearances such as Cumberbatch and Colin Firth in throwaway roles.
At the end of the day, 1917 is a spectacle worthy of its award contender status (it will surely win a few Oscars) but is also a film lacking the kind of connection to make it stand out above the rest.
*still courtesy of Universal Pictures*