Directed, Co-Written, and Produced by Sam Mendes
After communications is cut off, two soldiers are sent to stop a company of troops that is poised to attack a group of fleeing Germans during WWI not knowing that they are falling into a trap.
This was an amazing movie. Holy crap! The story is simple enough, but the execution is epic. Two soldiers must cross enemy territory and deliver a message. The drama and story that Sam Mendes pulls from these basic elements exceeds what you think should come from them.
The cast is essentially the two soldiers -British Lance Corporals William Schofield (George MacKay) and Thomas Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman). And they stick to those two through a good portion of the film. They do not pick up any extras along the way to complete their mission nor do they spend a particularly long amount of time with anyone they may bump into during the course of the journey.
The story itself moves from just being about these two men trying to deliver some orders and fulfill the mission to being a personal mission for both. It is not so much about saving the regiment by delivering the orders towards the end. By the time that the remaining soldier arrives, it is about delivering the news to the brother who is in that regiment and more or less fulfilling his friend’s last wishes as well as healing his own wounds. Will had saved him, but he was powerless to save his friend who died rather senselessly at the hands of a German.
They do not skimp on the horror of war. Abandoned decaying corpses are seen with a gruesome regularity. One even serves as a macabre landmark. It is all very chilling and from what I have read, closer to accurate than most films. A new kind of warfare appeared during this war, and we were unprepared. Death and battle come and go quickly and jarringly.
They do a great job of immersing you in the environment. The sets and the uniforms look as if they came directly from that time. You could almost believe you are looking back at the past here.
The stakes of the mission are raised when Captain Smith (Mark Strong) whose unit Will hitches a ride with suggests having a witness present when the orders are delivered because the colonel could disregard them and send his men into battle anyway. And for a moment at the end you think it will happen like that. Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) seems almost indignant about having to call it off.
But as that scene goes on you realize he is frustrated and mentally tired because he knows it could all change tomorrow and he will more than likely be sending his men after those same soldiers that his was told not to pursue.
The acting here is very solid. It can be hard to sustain tension and drama with only two actors, but they are so good that it is amazing. They invest you in the characters and the success or failure of the mission. You care and Mendes makes you believe in the possibility they might not succeed.
This movie per text seen at the end of the film is based in part on stories told to director Sam Mendes by his uncle as a child. They left quite an impression on him as he turned them into a masterpiece. The film itself feels neither here nor there on war itself. Rather it comes off as a statement on the realities of war. Maybe even a warning of sorts.
1917 is a great movie with an amazing story that is visually astounding. This is like a few other film experiences. You will love this movie.