'1917' captures horrors of war both poignantly and beautifully
FILM REVIEW: 1917 (15)THE LIGHT CINEMA, WISBECH, OUT NOW
CAST: GEORGE MACKAY, DEAN-CHARLES CHAPMAN, COLIN FIRTH & BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 59 MINS, DIRECTOR: SAM MENDES
Never have the horrors of the First World War been portrayed so starkly – and at times beautifully – as in this masterpiece from Sam Mendes.
The premise seems simple. Lance corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) – two young British fighters on the Western Front in France are given a seemingly impossible task by Colin Firth’s General Erinmore.
They must deliver an urgent message to an isolated regiment – led by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Colonel Mackenzie – whose 1,600 men are about to walk into a deadly German trap.
To make things worse, Blake’s older brother is a lieutenant in the regiment, and with time against them the duo most cross swathes of enemy territory to get the message to them before they are massacred.
Through abandoned German barracks, snipers, terrified French folk, and crossing paths with other British forces, the film is compelling viewing.
From the very start the chemistry between MacKay and Chapman is heart-warming and the way they carry themselves is unlike no other war movie I have seen.
Chapman, in particular, plays Blake exactly as he is – a young man in a soldier’s uniform and not a seasoned fighter.
The way they move, the way they conduct themselves, is often as terrified young men and the fact the film was shot in third person via one long single take makes that even more effective.
And the simple manner in which Mendes reminds us of the horrors of war is subtly heartbreaking too; Blake telling Scofield about different types of blossom in his mother’s orchard as the two stumble across some chopped cherry trees, and the most poignant seen of all... a dead dog outside a shell of a bulding that was once a family farm.
Young brothers in arms MacKay and Chapman are fantastic and believable throughout and it’s a pity they are not nominated personally for a film already up for 10 Oscars.