<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>

Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes


We’ve all seen war films and they’ve become pretty predictable now. 1917 is no different except in that it’s been shot beautifully and gets you to tag along with the protagonists.

World War I was a miserable mess where the good guys didn’t really have the equipment or the know-how to take on the crafty Germans. But still there were brave young men who risked their lives to defend what they believed in and try to be as humane as they could in a barbaric war that left nothing living in one piece. Even wood and stone were set ablaze.

George MacKay in 1917

In April 1917, Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and his buddy Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) are entrusted with the onerous task of delivering a message to a regiment in enemy territory who are about to attack the Germans the next day. But they must not do so as it’s a trap. Tom’s brother is one of the 1600 who may fall prey to this deception and this forms the impetus for him pushing forward while William ‘Sco’ is a bit more hesitant. But they must watch each other’s backs as they stumble through pits of dead animals and humans, pressing onwards on foot not knowing what nightmares await them.

Director Sam Mendes has set up the movie as if we’re actually embedded with these guys and are following them on this journey. The camera moves with them at eye level and even bounces up and down as they jump in and out of various pits and rivers. It’s immersive and a big part of why this film is engaging. Of course, the pathos of the situation is admirably captured, though I didn’t shed a tear throughout. You can sense the misery, the hopelessness at points, but the sheer determination to make a difference in a time when the commanding officers were merely playing out a game of sorts sending messages across lines that often conflicted with the previous ones. They didn’t have a real plan and caught in the crossfire of this were the young men who lost limbs and lives at the hands of the enemy and their own generals.

Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay in 1917

1917 is a good one-time watch, certainly not a classic like Dunkirk or war films that have come way before that.

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