MPAA Rating: R // Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Year: 2019 // Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Drama

‘Run, Pheidippides, run and race, reach Sparta for aid!
Persia has come, we are here, where is She?’ Your command I obeyed,
Ran and raced: like stubble, some field which a fire runs through,
Was the space between city and city: two days, two nights did I burn
Over the hills, under the dales, down pits and up peaks.

Robert Browning

There’s no passive way to watch 1917. It’s an immersive experience, from first shot to last, one which never gives us the chance to catch our breath. With the words, “Corporal, grab your kit and choose a man,” we’re off, following Lance Corporals Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and William Schofield (George MacKay) on a harrowing mission to deliver a message and stop an attack.

There’s a sense of urgency that comes from director Sam Mendes’ choice to edit the film to appear as if it was shot in one take. Not only does this keep viewers close to the action, but it keeps the story moving almost entirely in real-time, providing an inherent sense of urgency.

1917 manages to be both sweeping and intimate at the same time. Though these young corporals do have several encounters with Germans, it shies away from epic battles in favor of more intimate images of war: filthy, rat-ridden trenches; cisterns of stagnate water; dead bodies floating in rivers or abandoned on battlefields.

Still, the cinematography is breathtaking, moving as we do from trenches to forests to no man’s land to bombed out villages and farms to wide open battlefields.

I’m a firm believer in watching movies on as big a screen as possible, but this is one where the theater-going experience is almost a must. Watch it on the big screen, then watch it again.

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